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USA vs Al-Arian
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Sami Al-Arian’s Long-delayed Freedom (9/6)

In a long-overdue victory, Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian was released on bail September 2 and reunited with members of his family for the first time since his arrest in early 2003.

“[I]t feels very unbelievable and surreal that he’s finally with us after more than five-and-a-half years of being apart and of only being able to see him behind glass. It’s breathtaking, really,” his daughter, Laila Al-Arian, described her feelings to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.

“And the whole time, we–me and my siblings–just kept telling each other, ‘Is this a dream? Is this real?’ We couldn’t believe it. And even when we first heard the news, we were a bit skeptical, because we’ve been in this situation so many times, where we thought my father would finally be released, and he wouldn’t. So we kind of held back our happiness and joy until he was finally with us.”

Sami Al-Arian is the former University of South Florida professor who has been the victim of an ongoing government witch-hunt since the Bush administration, in the days following the September 11 attacks, accused him of using an Islamic think tank and a Muslim school and charity as a cover for raising funds to finance “terrorism” through the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Though then-Attorney General John Ashcroft held up Al-Arian’s arrest as an essential part of the “war on terror” here at home, after a six-month trial costing more than $50 million, a Florida jury in 2006 refused to find Al-Arian guilty of a single count of the 17 charges against him.

Facing the prospect of a lengthy and costly retrial, not to mention further separation from his wife and children, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of the least-serious charge against him in exchange for what was supposed to be a minor additional sentence and voluntary deportation.

Instead, before his scheduled release date, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg had Al-Arian moved to Virginia to try to compel his testimony in an unrelated investigation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)–despite an explicit agreement with Florida prosecutors, recorded in court transcripts, that Al-Arian would be exempt from all future testimony.

Because of his continued refusal to testify, Al-Arian has had his prison stay extended first with civil, and then criminal contempt charges. But according to his defense lawyers and family, the government’s request of his testimony is nothing more than a trap–designed to keep Al-Arian imprisoned indefinitely on contempt charges if he refuses to testify, or allow government prosecutors a reason to charge him with perjury if he were to testify.

As Laila Al-Arian noted on Democracy Now, “[W]hat we’ve learned along the way [about Gordon Kromberg]…is that he’s not really interested in the truth. What he’s interested in really is retrying the case that the government lost so badly in Florida.”

Al-Arian’s original sentence and his sentence for civil contempt ended in April, but the government has fought to keep him behind bars.

On August 8, at the most recent pre-trial hearing in his upcoming criminal contempt case, the prosecution’s bias was once again on display. At the hearing, Judge Leonie Brinkema postponed the upcoming trial until a separate appeal by Al-Arian’s lawyers could be ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In her ruling, Brinkema questioned whether prosecutors have been overzealous in filing additional charges against Al-Arian before the Supreme Court could rule, and questioned whether the most recent contempt charges violate the terms of Al-Arian’s plea agreement, which bars the Justice Department from standing in the way of Al-Arian’s deportation after he served his sentence.

When Judge Brinkema once again ordered Al-Arian released on bail into the care of his daughter Laila, the anti-Muslim racism of Assistant U.S. Attorney Kromberg was on full display.

Kromberg objected to bail, arguing that, as a Muslim woman, Laila Al-Arian–a well-respected author and activist–would be too weak and submissive to oppose any potential attempt by her father to flee. “[I]n this particular culture, she would not be able to stop him from leaving,” he stated in open court.

“[E]verybody was appalled,” Laila Al-Arian told Amy Goodman. “I think mouths dropped all over the courtroom. There were gasps. And before our lawyer even had an opportunity to say anything, the judge interrupted him and said, ‘I got this covered.’ She was appalled at what was said, and said, ‘This is not only an insult to Dr. Al-Arian and his father, this is an insult to the court.’…I just think this particular prosecutor can’t help himself from having these racist outbursts.”

Despite Brinkema rejecting Kromberg’s claim, the government moved to circumvent her order–with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) taking custody of Al-Arian, as it has in the past when it appeared that he could be released from jail.

According to ICE, since Al-Arian is technically under a deportation order, it should retain the right to keep Al-Arian in custody in order to, in theory, deport him under his original plea agreement. But ICE has never moved to deport Al-Arian when it had him in custody, instead simply holding him in detention until federal prosecutors could drag him back into court once again.

Al-Arian’s attorneys, however, recently filed a petition for habeas corpus with the court, challenging his continued unlawful detention by ICE. Brinkema then set a deadline for immigration authorities to explain their delay in releasing Al-Arian, and, according to Laila Al-Arian, “since they essentially had no response, their decision was to release him, finally.”

While an important victory for the Al-Arian family, Sami Al-Arian’s release on bail does not end his ordeal. While out on bail, he is forced to remain under house arrest at his daughter’s home. He also still faces pending criminal contempt charges, and prosecutors have shown that they are all-too-willing to go to any lengths to keep him imprisoned.

That’s why the efforts of activists–through phone calls, letters and more–will continue to be key in the coming weeks and months to winning Dr. Al-Arian’s freedom once and for all.

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