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USA vs Al-Arian
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The Clash of Democratic Ideals (5/25)

May 25, 2005
The Electronic Intifada
By Omar Yousef Shehabi

Link: Click here

In the aftermath of September 11, Sami al-Arian made the ill-fated choice to appear on US television and defend Muslim interests against the tidal wave of xenophobia. The presenter, Bill O'Reilly of the Fox News Channel, accentuated his usual demagoguery with a warning to the CIA to follow his guest closely. In fact, the government's investigation of al-Arian had begun six years prior and culminated in his arrest in February 2003. A 50-count indictment alleges that al-Arian has been the US head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) for nearly twenty years.

Two years ago a US magistrate judge pronounced al-Arian "a model of civic involvement" but denied him bail, substituting a nationalistic play for a real assessment of flight risk: "the aura of the PIJ's vision of Palestine captivated al-Arian and [co-defendant] Hammoudeh more than the successful life each had made in the United States. In a very real sense, both see Palestine as their home."[1] Four million Palestinian refugees in neighboring Arab states, and millions more in the worldwide Palestinian diaspora, see Palestine as their home. The problem, evidently lost on the judge, is that Palestine cannot offer al-Arian or any other of its refugees safe haven; the Israeli military has occupied the Palestinian areas for 38 years and prohibits their return. Under US Supreme Court precedent, this flight risk makes al-Arian's two-year pretrial stay in a Florida maximum-security prison, with 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, a constitutional administrative measure, not punishment.

Al-Arian's trial is scheduled to begin early next month in a Florida federal court. He has requested the trial be moved outside his home district of Tampa, where a local newspaper, the Tampa Tribune, and various radio personalities have led a decade-long character attack against him. The allegations, among them that he had assembled the world's largest terrorist cell on the USF campus, resulted in death threats and calls on the University to fire the tenured and highly acclaimed professor. The University heeded these demands immediately after his arrest, against protest from the professors' union; the former University president was chastised for not doing so sooner in her unsuccessful bid for the US Senate last year. Even the Israeli newspaper Haaretz concludes that subsequent to O'Reilly's condemnation, "there was no one in the area who did not know who Sami al-Arian was and did not judge him negatively."[2]

Even without the adverse media coverage, al-Arian has little chance at a fair hearing. Last year the trial judge ruled the 1996 terrorism law under which he is charged unconstitutionally vague unless the prosecution proves both that he knew of PIJ's terrorist designation and that the organization might use his alleged contributions to fund its violent activities. However, the judge opined in a footnote, "such an intent can be easily inferred from circumstantial evidence," and to do just that the government has secured the appearance of nearly 100 Israeli witnesses - survivors and bereaved families of terrorist attacks, police, and volunteers who collect body parts for burial - whose testimony promises to be genuine, stirring, and highly prejudicial.[3] Fairness dictates that the defendants get the chance to explain the Islamic movements' central role in providing food, health care, and education in the midst of military occupation and the demise of the Palestinian Authority. But this week the trial judge declared mention of the Palestinian humanitarian crisis, or any aspect of the conflict, off-limits to the defense except to the extent the government invokes it in their case.

Doubtless many in the government consider the ongoing prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui a failure and are seeking a high-profile triumph. Doubtless also the trial judge wants to deny the defendants the chance to put US foreign policy on trial. But as every judge who has touched his case concedes, al-Arian is no Moussaoui, and America's role in financing the occupation of Palestine cannot be dodged at the expense of a fair defense. With the case already slanted in the government's favor, the judge's ruling on the change of venue motion is about more than al-Arian's right to have his life entrusted to an impartial jury. On trial now is the ability of the US courts to protect the rule of law from an aggressive, partisan, and sometimes jingoistic "free media."

Omar Yousef Shehabi is a 23-year old American-born Palestinian and a postgraduate law student at the University of Notre Dame. He worked last summer for the UN Development Programme in Ramallah as a law clerk for the Palestinian Authority Ministry of National Economy. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

[1] United States v. al-Arian, 280 F.Supp.2d 1345, 1359 (M.D. Fla. 2003)
[2] Nathan Guttman and Yossi Melman, Jihad on Trial, Haaretz, May 18, 2005
[3] United States v. al-Arian, 329 F.Supp.2d 1294, 1305 (M.D. Fla. 2004)

Documents & Releases

Statement of Chairs of American Muslim Task-Force on Civil Rights and Elections  (AMT) and  Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Howard Zinn Statement on Professor Al-Arian



March 2000

December 2005alarian.jpg

January 2009

To be patriotic is to be able to question government policy in times of crisis.
To be patriotic is to stand up for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in times of uncertainty and insecurity.
To be patriotic is to  speak up against the powerful in defense of the weak and the voiceless.
To be patriotic is to be willing to pay the price to preserve our freedoms, dignity, and rights.
To be patriotic is to
challenge the abuses of the PATRIOT Act.
From a speech by Dr. Al-Arian


UFF Summary: Al-Arian and USF


Announcement of Book: The Al-Arian Reader

A new compilation of all relevant articles to be released soon by the National Liberty Fund

Selected Poems
by Sami Al-Arian

We Shall Rise

To Maya Angelou
Like the dream of the slave
You rise
And with the scream of the brave
I shall rise
In honoring the memory of your ancestors
You rise
With my stateless brothers and sisters
I shall rise
Like dust in the sunlight
You rise
And as ashes in a fiery night
I shall rise
You offend
Because of your existence
And I
For my resistance
You upset them
Recalling their past
And I
By holding steadfast
They may trod you in dirt
May cause me all the hurt
Inflict upon you excruciating pain
While they shut me up and detain
By they won't see you broken
Neither would my faith be forsaken
As you've never bowed your head
And never lowered your eyes
I'll continue to raise my fist
And hide my mother's cries
They may shoot you with their words
Cut me up with their swords
They may insult you with their eyes
Denigrate me with their lies
Trying to kill you with their hate
Bury me alive to seal my fate
But they'd certainly
Be shamed and fail
As the free chant and sing
On their march to prevail
So keep your head held high
As I follow you and try
And keep your beautiful smile
As I walk my first mile
They'll pressure and blame
Throw us in prison to control and tame
They'll exile and defame
Lynch us all or shoot and maim
Burn crosses with no shame
Target our children in a dirty game
By why is that a surprise?
Despite their evil and terror
Their falsehood and lies
You shall rise
And I shall rise
You're the black ocean
Leaping and wide
I'm the Mediterranean
With a stormy tide
Staying together
Side by side
It's no surprise
We shall rise
Surely shall rise
We together shall rise
No Longer Afraid
For us to feel "secure"
What price is being paid?
If living in freedom
Why are we afraid?
Fear is everywhere
All around
Perhaps irrational
But without any bound
You can see it on our faces
Sense it in our eyes
You can hear it in our whispers
Feel it in our cries
More>>No Longer Afraid
The Bird and The Vulture
The bird was chirping
In a house on a tree
But the vulture was angry
Because it was free
When the bird is singing
The vulture ain't safe
More>>The Bird and The Vulture
The Smile of Freedom
He looked like
A body-builder
Tall, tough, and full
All muscles and no fat
His mind was simple
Suited to follow orders
No questions asked
Acting mean and mechanical
Like any bureaucrat
More>>The Smile ...
In the Name of Freedom
In the name of freedom
We shall rule the world
To spread democracy
And set you free
In the name of freedom
We’ll descend on you
To make you civilized
Modern and orderly
More>>In the Name ...
The Accused: Franz Kafka Meets George Orwell in 21st Century America
Act I: The Mother of all Evidence
Act II- Weapons of Mass Deception
Act III: Silencing of the Lambs
Act IV: Attacks of the Wolves
Act V: Occupied Territory
Act VI: Police State
Act VII: Official Obituary
Act VIII: A Close Encounter of the Scariest Kind
Act IX: The Inquisition
Act X- Conspiracy Theory
Act XI- Secret Trials
Act XII- Silent Pain and Teary Eyes
Act XIII- True Patriot Acts
Do Not Sign
Rights are not for sale
History is not kind
On those who sell their people out,
Betray their cause,
Surrender their land
To tow the line
Do not sign
More>>Do Not Sign
Rachel Corrie: Daughter of Palestine
The most gentle
Amongst all honorable
Had a spirit
As dazzling as
The garden of
More>>Daughter of Palestine
Ole Jerusalem
O Ole Jerusalem
I feel your pain
I hear your cries
The light thunder
In the darkness
And the heavy rain
I see the steady bleeding
Of your wound
With its mark and stain
More>>Ole Jerusalem
Patrick Henry
A revolutionary
At heart
A patriot
From the start
Loved by his country
To the core
Defended freedom
Even more
Hated arrogance
In shape and tone
Fought tyranny
With every bone
He was the conscience
Of his people
Striking fear in the enemy
And made it feeble
More>> Patrick Henry
An overwhelming feeling
Of bitterness
Of hatred and rage
Trapped in a cage
Disappointment and anger
Continuing to linger
Wounding of dignity
Violating your virginity
More>> Injustice
Political Riddles
He sees the world as black and white
His solution to every quandary is fight with might
The economy will not stimulate
Because he can’t articulate
While jobs are gone
He says, “bring ‘em on.”
Who is he?
He likes to be called the General
The head of an agency that’s federal
If you spit on the sidewalk
He’ll send the Incredible Hulk
He hates to cite truth or fact
Because he’s busy promoting his unpatriotic act
He frequents TV cameras with a smash
The first part of his last name sounds like trash
Who is he?
He is the ideal dutiful poodle they say
From an empire where the sun did not set one day
He adores his cowboy friend and considers him a fan
And insists: I’m nobody’s yes-man
When the cowboy says no, I say no
Who is he?
More>>Political Riddles