New Hearing Set for Sami Al-Arian
Though free on bail, Sami Al-Arian remains politically imprisoned like many hundreds of others behind bars. Because of his faith, ethnicity, prominence and political activism, he was accused of supporting “terrorism” and other outrageous charges.
In fact, he’s a Palestinian refugee, a distinguished professor, scholar, community leader, and civil activist, a man deserving honor, not incarceration doing hard time until released after five and half years of brutal treatment, including solitary confinement in rat and roach-infested cells.
He was denied religious services, got no watch or clock, and was kept in windowless cells with artificial lights kept on round the clock. Whenever outside his cell, he was also shackled hands behind back and ankles. In protest, he staged hunger strikes, long enough to endanger is life.
A Brief Timeline of His Case
FBI investigations hounded him for 11 years, spending millions of dollars for half a million phone wiretaps, searches and other forms of harassment.
Events came to a head at 5AM on February 20, 2003 when FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officers stormed his home guns drawn. They arrested him and three others separately on spurious charges of supporting terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, giving material support to an outlawed group, extortion, perjury, and other offenses proved bogus in court.
On February 27, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft fired him, acting as a Bush administration stooge.
At his four day March bail hearing, prosecutors provided no evidence, witnesses, or any reason to hold him. Nonetheless, he and co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh were denied bail.
On March 27, he was incarcerated at maximum security federal penitentiary, Coleman, FL after initially held in jail. Later he was transferred repeatedly to other federal prisons.
In June 2005, his trial began. It was a witch-hunt travesty with phony evidence, the kind prosecutors use when they have none. Despite spending around $50 million for years of investigations and six months of trial, jurors exonerated him on eight serious charges, remaining deadlocked 10 – 2 for acquittal on nine lesser ones.
On March 2, 2006, fearing retrial, he agreed to plead guilty to one minor charge, be freed, then reunited with his family and deported. But it didn’t end there.
Assistant prosecutor Gordon Kromberg ordered him before a grand jury, violating terms of his plea bargain. Fearing entrapment, he refused, was held in contempt, again imprisoned, and sentenced to 18 months without mitigation – a clear effort to keep hounding and imprison him.
At the time, his attorney, Professor Jonathan Turley, called the Justice Department’s ploy “a classic perjury trap used repeatedly by the government to punish those individuals who could not be convicted before an American jury.”
Al-Arian appealed and remained imprisoned until released on bail on September 2, 2008 under house arrest, pending trial for criminal contempt. For the first time in over five years, he was reunited with his family, but his ordeal continues.
On October 29, 2010, a new hearing will be held before federal Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia to decide whether criminal contempt charges will be pursued or dropped.
Under Obama, prosecutors are as ruthlessly corrupted as their predecessors, using every trick in the book to convict, whether guilty or innocent, and when trials are politically motivated, intensifying pressure even more. The Justice Department thus filed a motion to deny a defense motion, filed 18 months earlier to dismiss criminal contempt charges. Three previous DOJ motions were rejected. This time, Holder prosecutors not only requested denying the defense’s dismissal request, but asked Judge Brinkema to reverse her earlier decision letting Al-Arian’s attorneys present evidence in case of trial.
In March 2009, she backed the defense’s request to file a motion to dismiss Al-Arian’s charges, saying she’d rule later at further hearings, and expressing concern over government “bait and switch” tactics:
“where Dr. Al-Arian and his counsel were assured that, if he agreed to plead guilty (to one minor charge), he would not be subject to any further involvement with the Justice Department beyond his deportation following the completion of his sentence.”
Bush prosecutors reneged on the agreement.
Like earlier departments under Ashcroft, Gonzales, and Mukasey, Holder shows equal contempt for the law and judicial fairness, presenting a challenge for the most competent defense lawyers. Al-Arian, however, is well represented, his team led by Professor Jonathan Turley, a recognized legal scholar who’s written extensively on constitutional and tort law as well as legal theory and other topics. With him are attorneys William E. Olsen and Philip J. Meitl.
On October 29, at 8:30AM, Al-Arian’s hearing will be held at the
Albert V. Bryan US Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
The freesamialarian site calls it his “most important” one so far, more than others up to now. His freedom and future depend on the outcome.
Some Final Comments
In July 2003, Amnesty International (AI) wrote US prosecutors, “calling for a review of the pre-trial detention conditions of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, aspects of which it said appeared to be ‘gratuitously punitive,’ ” and a breach of international standards.
In December 2005, AI sought fair procedures to resolve his case after jurors acquitted him of terrorist and other serious charges. AI noted his harsh solitary confinement, calling it “unnecessarily punitive.”
In August 2008, Howard Zinn said:
“I thought that (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.”
His former appeals attorney, Professor Peter Erlinder and former National Lawyers Guild president said:
“The prosecution of Dr. Sami 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.”
Throughout his ordeal, many other individuals and organizations expressed support, demanding justice and an end to prosecutorial ruthlessness, false imprisonment, and contempt for the rule of law.
In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers produced a documentary titled, USA v. Al-Arian. An updated 2009 version is now available. Access the following link to order:
Al-Arian was targeted for his ethnicity, prominence, activism, and for being Muslim at the wrong time in America. Washington’s police state harshness makes everyone just as vulnerable.
Earlier articles explaining Al-Arian’s ordeal, a man Bush administration prosecutors hounded, persecuted and imprisoned on bogus charges, can be accessed through the following links:
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org