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Al-Arian Case: 'When You Have To Leave America To Be Free' (8/5)

CommonDreams.Org

by Charles Davis

Link: Click here or here

WASHINGTON - Nearly three years after the U.S. government failed to convict Palestinian activist and former college professor Sami Al-Arian of any charges in one of the most high-profile terrorism trials following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he continues to be held in federal prison -- where, if convicted in an upcoming trial on criminal contempt charges, he faces the prospect of remaining for decades.

Al-Arian has been imprisoned since Feb. 20, 2003, after then-attorney general John Ashcroft declared in a press conference that he and four others were in league with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, "one of the most violent terrorist organisations in the world."

According to the U.S. government, Al-Arian operated several front groups for the Damascus-based terrorist group during the 1990s, raising money to finance suicide bombings that killed more than 100 Israelis. At his trial, prosecutors played graphic videos of suicide bombings and invited Israeli citizens to testify about their experiences surviving terrorist attacks -- attacks the government suggested were the end result of Al-Arian's actions.

Prosecutors also showed jurors a 1991 video of a rally where Al-Arian can be seen shouting, "death to Israel and victory to Islam" in Arabic. Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida, maintains that he has never condoned violence against civilians, but that he does support the right to resist a "brutal military occupation" of Palestinian lands.

Indeed, even the prosecution conceded that -- after more than 10 years of tapping the phone conversations of Al-Arian and his family -- there was no evidence directly tying him to a single terrorist attack. As a result, in 2005 a Florida jury acquitted Al-Arian of eight charges and remained deadlocked on another nine, with two-thirds of the jury voting for acquittal on all charges.

Yet despite the lack of a single conviction, Al-Arian remains in prison -- where supporters say he has often been held in solitary confinement and denied access to his family and legal counsel -- for refusing to testify in a trial against a northern Virginia Islamic think tank.

"We don't even know one day where he'll be the next, and we don't know how we'll be able to visit him," said Al-Arian's son, Abdullah, at a recent event here in Washington aimed at raising awareness of the case. "We just want this ordeal to be over."

But if federal prosecutors have their way, Al-Arian's ordeal will not be over anytime soon. After accepting a plea bargain in 2006, where he pled guilty to providing some assistance to friends and family "associated" with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- such as trying to help his brother-in-law, Mazzen Al-Najjar, obtain a visa -- Al-Arian was supposed to be deported to Egypt last year.

However, federal prosecutors -- namely, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who critics say has a long record of bigotry toward Arabs and Muslims -- have sought to force Al-Arian to testify in a case against the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which is accused of financing terrorist organisations. Al-Arian has refused to testify out of fear that prosecutors are simply seeking to trap him into committing perjury.

"If he does testify, no matter what he says, the prosecutor will charge him with perjury -- he's made that pretty clear to us," said Abdullah. "If he does not testify, he can be charged with contempt, and that was the road that my father chose, one that was more principled I think in terms of his taking a stand against the government's abuse of power."

Because of his refusal to testify, Al-Arian is now set for an Aug. 13 trial for criminal contempt. However his lawyer, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, says he has been barred from meeting with his client and is seeking to have the trial delayed and Al-Arian released.

In a motion filed Aug. 1, Turley -- who is also seeking to take the case to the Supreme Court -- argues that Al-Arian is being illegally detained by authorities in contravention of a Jul. 10 court decision, finding that he posed no flight risk or threat to his community and should be granted bail. "Put simply, Dr. Al-Arian is being held unconstitutionally," Turley states in the motion.

Al-Arian's supporters also maintain that he is a victim of a federal prosecutor -- Kromberg. During a 2005 trial, Kromberg told jurors that the defendant in the case -- Ali Al-Timimi, a devout Muslim -- could not be trusted, as his religion required him to lie to non-believers.

And according to Al-Arian's attorneys, Kromberg told them in a 2006 meeting that he would not grant Al-Arian's request that he not be forced to testify before a grand jury during the Islamic holiday of Ramadan.

"If they can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury; all they can't do is eat before sunset," Kromberg is quoted as telling Al- Arian's legal counsel. "I am not going to put off Dr. Al-Arian's grand jury appearance to assist in what is becoming the Islamisation of America."

Critics say Kromberg's comments -- and his unabashed support for the state of Israel -- show that his targeting of Al-Arian is based on politics, not terrorism.

"He's been singled out because he's been an effective, courageous man," said Mike Gravel, a former U.S. Senator from Alaska, at the event with Al-Arian's family. Like other supporters, Gravel believes Al-Arian is the victim of a politicised Justice Department eager to silence a controversial and outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

In an interview with IPS, Gravel said he was "absolutely outraged over the injustice" of the government's treatment of Al-Arian. He also singled out as "gutless" members of Congress -- such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont -- who have refused to take any action on Al-Arian's behalf.

Since Democrats took over control of Congress, Leahy's committee has held hearings on everything from polygamy to the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, but none regarding Al-Arian.

An aide to Leahy told IPS that his office continues to receive calls from Al- Arian's supporters, but offered no comment on what -- if any -- action Leahy would take regarding the case.

"This all stems from AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]," Gravel told IPS. Lawmakers are afraid of offending the powerful lobbying group -- which supports a hard-line position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in line with Israel's right-wing Likud Party -- and thus are unwilling to take up Al-Arian's case, he said. "This guy is just speaking out very effectively for the Palestinian cause, that's what is the root of this, and [the government is] trying to stifle that."

Gravel's comments on the case are echoed by Scott Horton, a former chair of the of the New York City Bar Association's Committee on International Law and a writer for Harper's Magazine.

"I believe that the defence is on firm ground saying that this is a case of political persecution," Horton stated in an interview with IPS. "In fact, I am hard pressed to find another case just like it."

Horton believes Al-Arian has been targeted not because he poses any sort of violent threat, but because he has been a high-profile and articulate critic of Israeli policies. And he believes the case shows that -- especially since 9/11 and the advent of the "war on terror" -- not even an acquittal is enough to exonerate someone accused of terrorism in the U.S.

"The prosecution's conduct is typical of the Bush Administration... in that it will not accept defeat, whether from a jury or a judge," stated Horton. "When they fail to get the relief they seek, they simply connive another way to secure it."

At the Washington event, Al-Arian's son Abdullah said that, at this point, the best his family could hope for is that the government ultimately decides to deport his father, as they promised to do in the 2006 plea agreement. "It's a sad day when you have to leave America to be free, but that's the America we live in -- for some people at least."
© 2008 Inter Press Service

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