Horrendous Conditions in Atlanta: In Dr. Sami's Words (1/22)
Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace
Dr. Al-Arian's Statement before Judge Gerald Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia
January 22, 2007
(Fair summary not verbatim):
"Thank you, your honor, for giving me the opportunity to address the Court. First of all, I have no contempt whatsoever for this honorable Court, but all the respect in the world for it.
The initial draft of the plea agreement presented by the government to my defense team contained a cooperation clause. I told my defense team, Bill Moffitt and Linda Moreno, that my belief system and conscience are totally against talking about anyone, and if the government insisted on including this section they should break off negotiations and proceed towards trial. The chief prosecutor in my trial, Mr. Terry Zitek, acknowledged as much during the November 6, 2006 hearing in Tampa before Judge Moody when he said: `Mr. Al-Arian said no cooperation and we said fine and took it out.'
Furthermore, from the outset of the negotiations both the government and the defense agreed that the disposition of the count I pleaded to on level 26 with three points deduction to level 23. The sentencing guideline for level 23 is 46-57 months. It was also agreed between the parties that I will receive time served and have an expedited deportation. Therefore, the government agreed to recommend the low-end of the guideline, which was essentially time served.
However, there was always the risk that the judge (Moody) would go for the higher end or somewhere in between. So I asked Mr. Bill Moffitt what we could do to ensure the low end. He advised me that the only way to guarantee the low end would be to include cooperation which I totally ruled out; this would have reduced it to level 21 with a maximum sentence of 37 months, way below the time served. So I took the risk of serving 11 more months; in fact I am serving 11 more months for totally refusing the cooperation section.
Moreover, in August 2000, I was subpoenaed by the government in a federal immigration proceeding, and I was asked the following question: "Do you believe in the use of violence to free Islam? My answer was one word, "No." Despite the absurdity and awkwardness of such a question, it was count 47 in the indictment and count 50 in the superseding indictment.
I also would like to bring to the court's attention to the way I have been treated for the past three weeks. In the past three weeks, I have been to four prisons. I spent fourteen days in the Atlanta penitentiary under 23-hour lockdown, in a roach and rat infested environment. On two occasions, rats shared my diabetic snack. When I was transported from Atlanta to Petersburg (Virginia) and from Petersburg to Alexandria, they allowed me only to wear a t-shirt in subfreezing weather during long walks. In the early morning, the Atlanta guard took my thermal undershirt which I purchased from the prison and threw it in the garbage and when I complained, he threatened to use a lockbox on my handcuffs which would make them extremely uncomfortable.
In Petersburg, the guard asked me to take off my clean t-shirt and boxers and gave me dirty and worn out ones.When I complained, he told me to `shut the f up.' And when I asked why he was treating me like that, he said `because you're a terrorist.' When I further complained to the lieutenant in charge, he shrugged it off and said if I don't like it, I should write a grievance to the Bureau of Prisons. When I said he had the authority to give me clean clothes, he refused and said if I don't like it I should write a grievance to the Bureau of Prisons. During one of the airlifts, an air marshal further tightened my already tightened handcuffs, and asked me `Why do you hate us?' I told him, `I don't hate you.' He said, `I know who you are, I've read your s-h-i-t.' These are examples of the government's harassment campaign against me that's been taking place for years because of my political beliefs."
The judge then interrupted Dr. Al-Arian and told him that he should not be harassed but that he (the judge) has no control over the bureau of prisons. He added that Dr. Al-Arian should not be mistreated because of his political beliefs. He nonetheless held him in contempt.