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RIGHTS-US: Critics See Vendetta in Al-Arian's Legal Limbo (7/2)

Inter Press Services
By Ali Gharib

July 2, 2008

Link: Click here

WASHINGTON - Palestinian activist and former university professor Sami Al-Arian was arraigned Monday in U.S. federal court on two counts of criminal contempt for his refusal to testify in a grand jury investigation of a Northern Virginia Muslim think-tank.

The indictment is the latest episode of a long, Kafka-esque process that has violated nearly every tenet of Al-Arian's plea agreement following the end of his first trial in 2005, and kept Al-Arian in prison for over five years.

"The government has made a complete mockery of the plea agreement," Al-Arian's attorney, Jonathon Turley, told IPS. "Dr. Al-Arian has received zero benefit from his plea agreement."

Supporters of Al-Arian cited the charges as an attempt by an overzealous Justice Department prosecutor to keep Al-Arian behind bars indefinitely despite an inability to secure a jury conviction. There is no maximum penalty for criminal contempt.

"The whole case against him is a vindictive act by sore losers that lost the Florida case badly because there was no evidence," Al-Arian's daughter, Laila, told IPS. "So they're manufacturing crimes to keep him in prison as long as possible. It's almost as if the whole plea agreement was just a way to buy time."

The indictment said that Al-Arian had refused to testify in violation of a court order. But Al-Arian's defence holds that his subpoena was out of line with his original agreement, which included an express promise that Al-Arian did not have to cooperate further with the government.

On Monday, Al-Arian was moved from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail to the Alexandria courthouse where he was arraigned. He had been in ICE custody for over three months awaiting an expedited deportation as part of the 2005 plea.

In ICE prisons, which have been the target of frequent criticism for their harsh conditions, Al-Arian was only allowed one visitor per month. When arraigned on Monday, Al-Arian and his defence did not enter a plea because they had not had the chance to discuss the charges yet, Turley wrote on his blog. The court entered a not guilty plea.

The think-tank, the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), is under investigation for alleged ties to terrorism. Al-Arian's defence contends that he gave two affidavits making clear that he has no knowledge of crimes committed by IIIT, and he has offered to take a polygraph lie-detection test to back them up.

Turley told IPS that this constituted cooperation and that Gordon Kromberg, the assistant U.S. attorney who signed the indictments, had agreed - sending Turley an e-mail saying that it looked like the proposed resolution would work. The next day, Turley learned of the indictments from the media.

Kromberg has been criticised for prosecutorial abuses ranging from stoking Islamophobia among jurors to get convictions, to outright anti-Muslim comments as recorded in court motions, and - perhaps most shockingly - punishing defendants that a jury will not convict.

In 1999, at a Cato Institute event on asset forfeiture reform to curb abuses, Kromberg spoke out in favour of broad governmental powers to seize belongings. In Reason Magazine, Michael Lynch's retelling of the Cato event noted that jaws hit the floor when Kromberg, opposed by much of the crowd in defending forfeiture, said that prosecutors should be able to punish wrongdoing if they are convinced it occurred.

"He knew these people were guilty and was certain they needed to be punished," Lynch paraphrased Kromberg's position. "Should we let these people get away, he asked, before answering in an illuminating way: Not if we can punish them through other means."

While the forfeiture battle was a far cry from prosecuting terrorism suspects, Kromberg's assertions about prosecutorial powers is germane to Al-Arian's case in that it reveals his thinking about punishing those he deems guilty even if a jury refuses to do so.

Critics also accuse Kromberg of having an anti-Muslim bias, springing in part, they say, from a strong affinity for Israel.

Kromberg participated in a United Jewish Committee's mission to Israel and kept a diary in which he writes of visiting sites of previous terrorist attacks and discusses some of the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the diary, Kromberg refers to the occupied territories of the West Bank by the name "Judea and Samaria" - a term favoured by right-wing Israelis who often oppose land concessions and a two-state solution - and referred to "the enthusiasm of the Palestinians to use mass murder as a tool against the Israelis for no apparent end other than to destroy Israel."

Al-Arian has been significantly engaged in Muslim and Palestinian activism since the late 1970s.

In a court motion, one of Al-Arian's legal team quoted Kromberg as saying, "If they [Muslims] can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury," in response to request that Al-Arian's jail transfer be delayed until after the Muslim holy month had ended.

Al-Arian was initially arrested in 2003 and kept in jail for two and half years before his first trial on terrorism charges.

The George W. Bush administration was embarrassed when it couldn't secure a single conviction in one of its highest-profile terrorism cases against the man who then-attorney general John Ashcroft accused of being the head of a Palestinian terrorist organisation.

Facing retrial on the deadlocked charges, Al-Arian decided to spare his family the agony of another long trial ordeal by pleading to a lesser charge of aiding associates of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and directly aiding the group before its designation as a terrorist organisation by the U.S. in 1997.

But Al-Arian set conditions for his agreement. Witnessing the strains that his imprisonment and trial had put on his own family, he refused to work with the government on other cases. He also demanded an expedited deportation when the sentence for his guilty plea expired.

Melva Underbakke, the head of a Tampa-based rights organisation who drove nine hours to attend the arraignment, said, "You got the feeling [Al-Arian] has been through this before. The Al-Arian family is amazing. They looked strong."

Al-Arian will have a hearing next week to determine if he can be released on bond pending trail. The government opposes this, but Al-Arian's legal team contends that he is not a flight risk.

"Dr. Al-Arian (1) has lived in this country for over 30 years; (2) had lawful alien status; (3) has family with deep ties in the country; (4) has citizens willing to serve in a custodial status; (5) has no passport; and (6) is willing to be continually monitored under home confinement. The opposition of the government is purely gratuitous and retaliatory under such conditions," wrote Turley in his blog.

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