[Pnews] The Case of Sami Al-Arian - Justice Corrupted

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 10 10:45:37 EDT 2014

*July 9, 2014*

*Justice Corrupted*

/By Lawrence Davidson

Times of high tension often result in the lowering of important 
standards in the application of law. They do so by heightening the fears 
of the general public, which in turn gives license to bigots embedded in 
the justice system such as judges and prosecutors who have Islamophobic 
prejudices, Zionist biases, or neoconservative delusions. When 
dogmatists are in control none of us are really free.


Cross-posted from To The Point Analyses <http://www.tothepointanalyses.com/>

*Part I -- Dogmatists in the Justice System*

Scattered throughout the ranks of U.S. federal prosecutors and judges 
there have always been men and women who are unwilling to make a 
distinction between their own biases and the rules of evidence that are 
designed to keep the system focused on the goal of justice. Such 
closed-minded individuals, embedded in the system, can find themselves 
set free to act out their prejudices by special circumstances. One might 
think back to the "hanging judges" who appeared here and there on the 
American frontier in the 19th century. Being among the few enforcers of 
law and order in an otherwise anarchic environment, they indulged their 
fantasies of playing the wrathful god.

The "War on Terror" has likewise created a special circumstance that has 
liberated Justice Department dogmatists: Islamophobes, Zionists, 
neoconservatives and others who fancy themselves on a special mission to 
protect the nation from evil and conspiratorial forces. And, as with the 
hanging judges before them, the result has been an enhanced possibility 
not of justice, but rather of the miscarriage of justice.

*Part II -- The Case of Sami Al-Arian*

In the past 20 years one of the most notable victims of doctrinaire 
judges and prosecutors has been Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian is the son of 
Palestinian-refugee parents. He came to the United States in 1975 to 
attend university and earned his degree in computer systems engineering. 
Eventually he earned a Ph.D. and obtained a tenure-track position at the 
University of South Florida.

Not only did Al-Arian become a prominent professor, winning several 
teaching awards, but he also became a community activist, defending the 
civil liberties of minority groups, particularly Muslim Americans. 
During the Clinton administration he was an active campaigner against 
the Justice Department's pre-9/11 use of "secret evidence" to hold 
people in jail indefinitely. He also actively and publicly supported the 
right of Palestinians to resist Israeli oppression.

At some point in the mid-1990s what may have been a coordinated effort 
to ruin Dr. Al-Arian developed among neoconservative and Zionist 
elements. Steven Emerson, a man who has made his living as a faux expert 
on terrorism and a professional Islamophobe, accused one of Al-Arian's 
organizations, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, of being a 
"terrorist front." This accusation proved to be baseless, but it 
nonetheless led other Islamophobe radicals to focus on Al-Arian. Some of 
these people resided within the Justice Department and the FBI, and they 
went on a fishing expedition looking for alleged connections between 
Al-Arian and a recently designated "terrorist organization" called the 
Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

During the 2000 presidential election, Al-Arian became a prominent 
figure in national politics as it played out in Florida. His major 
concern was the government's use of secret evidence, and it was George 
W. Bush who promised to rein in the practice. Therefore Al-Arian backed 
Bush in the election. His trust in this regard proved horribly misplaced.

On September 26, 2001, Bill O'Reilly invited Al-Arian onto his TV show 
ostensibly to discuss Arab-American reactions to the 9/11 attacks. It 
was a trap. O'Reilly immediately asked Al-Arian if he had said "Jihad is 
our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel" at a rally 13 years before 
(in 1988). Though Al-Arian tried to explain that it was a reference to 
his support for Palestinian resistance against apartheid policies in 
Israel, O'Reilly proclaimed that the CIA should watch Al-Arian from now 
on. Almost at once Al -Arian started to receive death threats. At this 
point the University of South Florida placed him on administrative 
leave. He would eventually be fired by the University.

The O'Reilly interview may have been a public relations booster for the 
ongoing Justice Department investigation mentioned above.That lasted 
until September 2003, when Al-Arian and three others were indicted on 25 
counts of "racketeering" for the PIJ. The Bush administration's Attorney 
General John Ashcroft went on television to extol the indictment as a 
great blow against terrorism (thus confusing an indictment with a 
conviction) that was made possible by the extensive powers of the USA 
PATRIOT Act. Among these powers were those George W. Bush had promised 
Al-Arian he would rein in.

After a five-month, 13-day trial, Al-Arian was acquitted on eight counts 
and the jury deadlocked on the remaining 17. When a juror was 
interviewed after the trial and asked what was lacking in the 
government's case he replied, "evidence." Nonetheless, the outcome 
allowed the government to hold Al-Arian pending retrial on those 
deadlocked counts. The case had a distinctly contrived and corrupt feel 
to it -- the result of Islamophobes turned loose by the events of 9/11 
to substitute their own biases for the rules of legal evidence.

In 2006 Dr. Al-Arian was still in prison. His health was deteriorating 
and the strain on his family (his wife and five children) was great. 
Given the situation he agreed to a plea bargain agreement whereby he 
would plead guilty to one count of acting in a fashion that benefited 
the PIJ. In exchange the other counts would be dismissed by the 
government. He would be incarcerated for a relatively short period on 
the guilty count with time already served counting toward this sentence. 
In order to secure the plea bargain, Al-Arian also had to agreed to be 
deported upon release.

Once more the government, in this case the judge and the federal 
prosecutor, proved untrustworthy. Despite the jury verdict, the judge 
had decided that Sami Al-Arian was a "master manipulator" and "a leader 
of Palestine Islamic Jihad." This was exactly what the jury decided the 
evidence could not substantiate. However, the judge, moved by emotional 
convictions, had equated statements on the part of Al-Arian showing 
understanding of acts of Palestinian resistance with actual material 
support of those actions. In doing so the judge went beyond the rules of 
evidence and corrupted the system he was sworn to serve. The judge gave 
Dr. Al-Arian not the minimum recommended in the plea bargain but the 
maximum of 57 months for the one count to which he pled guilty.

Then began a series of additional prosecutorial steps involving the 
issuing of repeated subpoenas demanding that Al-Arian testify at grand 
jury investigations. This was also in defiance of his plea bargain and 
so he refused. He was held in civil and later criminal contempt which 
added substantially to his jail time.

So egregious was the behavior of the prosecutors seeking his testimony 
that another, more objective judge eventually stepped in and halted the 
government's efforts to force Sami Al-Arian's to appear before grand 
juries. Dr. Al-Arian was also let out of prison and allowed to live 
under a liberal form of house arrest at his daughter's home in Virginia. 
His case was held in a kind of legal limbo until just recently, when on 
27 June 2014, prosecutors decided to drop all charges against Al-Arian. 
One should not think of this as a total victory, for the government 
still intends to deport Sami Al-Arian.

Sami Al-Arian and his family had to endure 11 years of persecution on 
the basis of assumptions that were substituted for evidence. In the 
process the life of an upright man, devoted to teaching, charitable 
works and the cause of a persecuted people, was ruined. The people who 
did this to him simultaneously corrupted the justice system integrity of 
which they were sworn to uphold.

*Part III -- Other Victims*

While Sami Al-Arian was perhaps the most high-profile of these cases, 
his was not the only one. Four members of the Holy Land Foundation 
charity were charged with materially aiding Hamas when, in fact, all the 
foundation did was supply money to charitable Palestinian organizations 
which had been accredited by Israel. It took two trials, one in 2007 and 
another 2008, for the U.S. government to eke out a conviction on weak 
evidence that included the testimony of anonymous Israeli witnesses. The 
Supreme Court refused to interfere with this prima facie 
unconstitutional procedure.

At present a Palestinian civil rights activist in Chicago, Rasmea Odeh, 
is being prosecuted for an alleged immigration fraud for failing to 
report on her immigration application that 45 years ago, when she was a 
child, she was arrested by the Israeli military and briefly held without 
charge. The same prosecutor who went after the Holy Land Foundation is 
involved in the prosecution of Odeh.

*Part IV -- Conclusion*

Times of high tension often result in the lowering of important 
standards in the application of law. They do so by heightening the fears 
of the general public, which in turn gives license to bigots embedded in 
the justice system such as judges and prosecutors who have Islamophobic 
prejudices, Zionist biases, or neoconservative delusions. All of these 
motives may come into play in cases such as those mentioned above.

Normally the appeals process should catch and reverse such problematic 
behavior. However, if the period of public fear is prolonged, the 
appeals process might also become corrupted by public hysteria and 
political pressures. It took Sami Al-Arian 11 years to overcome his 
prosecutorial ordeal and those of the Holy Foundation members and Rasmea 
Odeh are ongoing.

The last word on this dilemma should go to Sami Al-Arian's son, 
Abdullah, who in a recent statement observed,"It's a sad day when you 
have to leave America to be free." Indeed, when dogmatists are in 
control none of us are really free.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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