[Ppnews] Seventh Anniversary of the Political Persecution of Dr. Sami Al-Arian

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 22 10:55:07 EST 2010

Seventh Anniversary of the Political
Persecution of Dr. Sami Al-Arian


Washington, DC - February 20, 2010 marks the seventh anniversary of 
the arrest of Professor Sami Al-Arian by U.S. authorities. On that 
day, in 2003, former Attorney General John Ashcroft declared in a 
nationally televised news conference, carried on all major media 
outlets, that Dr. Al-Arian was one of the most dangerous people in the world.

Based on these assertions, Dr. Al-Arian was held in 
confinement for 43 straight months during and after his trial, 
despite the fact that he had never waived his right to a speedy 
trial. Amnesty International protested 
conditions of his detention, calling them 

No Guilty Verdicts

In December 2005, a Florida jury acquitted Dr. Al-Arian on eight 
counts, and deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal on the remaining 
nine counts, leading Time magazine to declare the case "one of the 
Justice Department's most embarrassing legal setbacks since 9/11." 
Indeed, much of the government's evidence presented to the jury 
during the six-month trial were speeches Dr. Al-Arian delivered, 
lectures he presented, articles he wrote, magazines he edited, books 
he owned, conferences he convened, rallies he attended, interviews he 
gave, news he heard, and websites he never even accessed. In fact, 
several websites, presented to the jury as evidence, were created by 
anonymous individuals, after his arrest, while he was awaiting trial 
in solitary confinement in a federal prison. It was therefore no 
surprise that, with almost 100 counts between all defendants, the 
jury did not return a single guilty verdict on any count. Two other 
defendants were totally acquitted on all counts.

A Plea Deal to End Persecution

In April 2006, in an effort to spare his family another long, 
financially draining, and excruciating trial, Dr. Al-Arian pleaded 
guilty to violating a 1995 presidential executive order, by providing 
immigration services in the 1990s to persons associated with the PIJ, 
a Palestinian organization listed on the U.S. terrorist list. In 
return, he agreed to immediate deportation from the U.S. despite more 
than three decades residing in the country. The details of the plea 
deal illustrated the true nature of the political persecution of this 
case. The services admitted in the plea deal were: 1) hiring a lawyer 
for his brother-in-law during his immigration battle in the late 
1990s; 2) sponsoring a Palestinian historian in 1994 to conduct 
research in the U.S.; and 3) withholding information from a U.S. 
journalist during a 1995 interview. There was no evidence or 
admission in the plea deal that showed any illegal financial 
transactions or material support.  Although Dr. Al-Arian was promised 
a prompt release in exchange for his plea, the U.S. government later 
admitted that, at the time the plea deal was signed in 2006, federal 
prosecutors were secretly preparing to call Dr. Al-Arian before a 
grand jury in Virginia, in a sign of their complete disregard for the 
overarching purpose of the plea agreement, which was to end any and 
all business between Dr. Al-Arian and the U.S. government.

Prosecutorial Trap

In what many observers believed was an attempt to seek retribution 
for the colossal defeat of the government's case in Florida, Dr. 
Al-Arian was called to testify before a federal grand jury in 
Alexandria, Virginia three times between the fall of 2006 and the 
spring of 2008. The call to the grand jury was a classic 
prosecutorial trap in which agreeing to testify would result in a 
charge of perjury, while a refusal to testify would result in a 
charge of contempt of court. When Dr. Al-Arian refused to testify, 
invoking his right under the plea deal, he was held for over a year 
on civil contempt charges. In June 2008, he was charged with criminal contempt.

After five and a half years in prison, most of which was served under 
deplorable conditions in solitary confinement, and during which Dr. 
Al-Arian underwent three hunger-strikes that lasted several months 
requiring hospitalization, Dr. Al-Arian was released in September 
2008 under house arrest, where he has spent the last 18 months 
awaiting trial. During this period, the government made several 
admissions regarding the plea deal: namely, they affirmed its essence 
of non-cooperation, but still argued that it should not be taken into 
account. However, the judge in the case 
the government's assertions, stating that "the integrity of the 
department of Justice," was at stake. A 
to dismiss the case based on the violation of the 2006 plea agreement 
has been pending since April 2009.

The Persecution of Dr. Al-Arian on Film

In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers released a documentary film entitled 
vs. Al-Arian. The award-winning film chronicles the story of Dr. 
Al-Arian and his family

during and after his Florida trial, illustrating the political nature 
of his prosecution and the state of the U.S. justice system under the 
Patriot Act. Since 2003, Dr. Al-Arian's case has attracted the 
interest of major civil liberties  and human rights organizations in 
the U.S. and around the world. Peter Erlinder, a law professor, and 
former president of the National Lawyers Guild, said: "The 
prosecution of Dr. Al-Arian was a blatant attempt to silence 
political speech and dissent in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. 
The nature of the political persecution of this case has been 
demonstrated throughout all its aspects, not only during the trial 
and the never-ending right-wing media onslaught, but also after the 
stunning defeat of the government in 2005, and its ill-advised abuse 
of the grand jury system thereafter."

Striving for Justice

In August 2008, the late 
Zinn declared: "I thought that [Dr. Al-Arian's case] was an 
outrageous violation of human rights, both from a constitutional 
point of view and as a simple test of justice."

Moreover, Dr. Mel Underbakke of Friends of Human Rights, who has 
traveled the country screening the documentary and educating the 
public about the dangers of the Patriot Act, said: "The unjust 
persecution of Dr. Al-Arian should concern all Americans. History has 
taught us that when the rights of the minority are violated by the 
government for political purposes, then the rights of all Americans 
would be eroded. That's why thousands of civil libertarians and human 
rights activists in the U.S. and around the world, have been 
mortified by the injustice suffered by Dr. Al-Arian and his family 
and have rallied in their defense."

When asked about how her father was doing during his house arrest, 
Laila Al-Arian, a journalist, said: "Our family is very grateful to 
have been with him since his release. He's been a guiding influence 
in our lives. He is also most appreciative of the tremendous support 
he's been receiving nationwide and around the world."

A Voice for Freedom and Dialogue

Dr. Al-Arian reiterated his strong belief in the importance of 
dialogue and education in the only 
speech he has given since his release on home confinement, delivered 
last summer through Skype to the 
Forum on Freedom of Expression in Norway. He said: "Despite my 
imprisonment and experience, my faith in dialogue and commitment to 
freedom of expression, will never waver. It's been my life long 
passion. This experience taught us that when the American people are 
educated and empowered with truth, they respond positively and 
display a sense of fairness. I firmly believe that through education 
and civil engagement people change. Little by little they will 
understand the plight of the Palestinians and the importance of 
defending civil liberties and human rights. Increasingly, people 
realize that no democracy can survive at the altar of sacrificing 
free speech or dissent."

He continued: " Our charge today is to pledge to defend the rights of 
our most vulnerable members of our world community: the tens of 
thousands of prisoners of conscience around the world, those who are 
under occupation or under siege, the millions terrorized by dictators 
and war lords, the poor and the sick, the uneducated and the 
exploited, the children, the abused women, and the elderly. Each one 
of these classes of people needs a voice and an advocate. They need 
to gain their freedom to realize a life of dignity and peace. So 
whether we recognize it or not, we are at the forefront of this 
struggle for their freedom.  Let your collective conscience speak on 
their behalf." He then concluded: "One cannot achieve peace without 
realizing justice, realize justice without seeking out the truth, 
seek out the truth without practicing freedom. So living and thinking 
free is the root of achieving peace in our world."

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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