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Alexander Cockburn: The Ongoing Persecution of Sami al-Arian (8/3)

CounterPunch

August 3, 2008

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Link:Click here

Efforts to free Sami al-Arian have now reached the U.S. Supreme Court. On July 30 an appeal was lodged with the Court by his attorneys, led by Professor Jonathan Turley.

There are few prospects in the justice system so grimly awful as when the feds decide never to let go. Rebuffed in their persecutions of some target by juries, or by contrary judges, they shift ground, betray solemn agreements, dream up new stratagems to exhaust their victims, drive them into bankruptcy, despair and even suicide. They have all the money and all the time in the world.

Several months ago I wrote here about the appalling vendetta conducted by the US Justice Department against Sami al-Arian, a professor from Florida who had the book thrown at him in 2003 by Attorney General Ashcroft. As I described it back then, Dr al-Arian was charged in a bloated terrorism and conspiracy case and spent two and a half years in prison, in solitary confinement awaiting trial.

In December 2005, a Tampa jury hung 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal on nine charges. In a plea deal, the government dropped eight of them and demanded Al-Arian plead guilty to a watered-down version of one charge. Normally a hung jury with so large a number of the jurors voting for innocence would mean the prosecutors would not demand a retrial. But given the Justice Department’s vindictiveness in this case and that it might insist on just such  hugely expensive and protracted proceedings, Al-Arian’s lawyers urged him to accept the offer. Under the plea agreement—which the government betrayed --Dr. Al-Arian pled guilty to one charge of providing nonviolent services to people associated with a designated terrorist organization.

A central aspect of the plea agreement was an understanding that al-Arian would not be subject to further prosecution or called to cooperate with the government on any matter. Al-Arian and his lawyers have insistently maintained that the plea deal with Florida prosecutors protected him from cooperating in any additional cases. The government recommended the shortest possible sentence, no more than time served.

But then, almost certainly after a visit to the local federal prosecutors in Tampa by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the feds double-crossed him on the plea agreement and he was thrown back into prison. The biased judge handed down the maximum sentence, which meant a further eleven months of incarceration before release and deportation slated for April 2007. Now Dr al-Arian passed into the malign orbit of prosecutors in Virginia, notably assistant federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg. The DOJ’s plan now was to set up al-Arian in a perjury trap, compelling him to testify before a grand jury investigating an Islamic think tank called in a case that is unrelated to his. The Institute has been the target of a six-year witch-hunt by Kromberg.

On November 16, 2006, dragged up to Virginia, al-Arian was brought before the grand jury and placed in civil contempt for refusing to testify because the actual intend of the subpoena has been the attempt to trap him. When the grand jury’s term expired, Kromberg promptly empanelled a new one. Al-Arian continued to decline to testify, and was once more held in contempt.

Shunted between prisons in Atlanta, Petersburg and Alexandria, Dr al-Arian endured hunger strikes and maltreatment from guards.

Even with the additional time served, Dr. Al-Arian’s sentence ended on April 7 of this year. He was then taken into the custody of immigration authorities who were making preparations for his deportation. On June 26 the Department of Justice elected to plunge al-Arian and his family into fresh torments, thus prolonging the slow moving auto da fe of the past five years. A new federal indictment charged Dr. Al-Arian with two counts of criminal contempt, relating to the efforts by Virginia prosecutors to bring him before a grand jury investigating other Muslim organizations. Al Arian now faces additional prison time if convicted.

“This indictment proves that the government was never interested in any information that Dr. Al-Arian has on the IIIT [i.e., the International Institute of Islamic Thought] matter,” said his attorney, Professor Jonathan Turley, who has represented al-Arian since May 2007. “They have indicted him despite the fact that the prosecutors admitted that he is a minor witness in the IIIT investigation and he has already given two detailed statements under oath to the government and offered to take a polygraph examination to prove that he has given true information about his knowledge of IIIT. Dr. Al-Arian has addressed every document cited by the government as the reason for his being called before the grand jury. He has shown that he has no incriminating information to offer against either IIIT or its officers.”

On June 30, 2008, Al-Arian was arraigned before US District Judge Leonie Brinkema for the Eastern District of Columbia, but Al-Arian did not enter a plea as Turley stated they were not prepared to do so. The Court, then, entered a not guilty plea on Dr al-Arian’s behalf and scheduled a trial to begin on August 13. According to a statement issued by Turley, the government is further seeking to indict Dr. Al-Arian for the period under which he was under civil contempt confinement. Thus, after holding him for a year, the government now seeks to punish him for the same period of the confinement.

Turley writes on his website that “the petition for a writ of certiorari appeals the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The lower court refused to consider evidence that the prosecutors violated Dr. Al-Arian’s 2006 plea agreement in ordering him to testify before a Virginia grand jury. Dr. Al-Arian has asked for an evidentiary hearing to establish that he was expressly promised by the Justice Department that he would not have to cooperate in any way after his plea agreement. Indeed, he accepted a longer sentence to secure that concession. The final standard cooperation language was indeed removed from the agreement, but the court refused to consider evidence outside of the agreement showing that the removal of the language was due to an express promise by the government. Other circuits allow for such evidence to be considered — producing a split in the circuits. The Eleventh Circuit decision effectively allows the Justice Department to get away with a classic “bait and switch” tactic where the government assures a defendant that a condition is accepted and then, after he pleads guilty, refuses to comply with the condition because it was not expressly added to the plea agreement.”

Why the continued efforts to destroy Dr al-Arian? He’s just one more object lesson to the world of what can happen to a Muslim, a Palestinian, who tried with some success to combat ignorance and prejudice in the Middle Eastern debate and who established his innocence to a jury on the grave charges the US government spent millions to sustain in that Florida court. His assailants in the Justice Department have probably anticipated with relish that al-Arian would succumb to malnutrition and illness in one of the holes into which he has been flung. They were mistaken. Sustained by his family, capable attorneys and vast sympathy across the world, Dr al-Arian has stayed in the ring with his fearsome and vindictive persecutors. Every word of support and encouragement  (to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is important.

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

SITE SEARCH

SPOTLIGHT

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
9/1/2002

Biography---

UFF Summary: Al-Arian and USF

Poetry

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
Women
Had a spirit
As dazzling as
The garden of
Eden
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
Injustice
An overwhelming feeling
Of bitterness
Emptiness
Hopelessness
Helplessness
Sadness
Madness
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