D.C. press conference: 'Drop the charges against Dr. Sami Al-Arian' (4/26)
Family and supporters pledge to continue their struggle
Family and supporters of Dr. Sami Al-Arian held a press conference April 24 in front of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., to demand that all charges in his case be dropped.
The contempt charges stem from an attempt by the U.S. government to force Dr. Al-Arian to testify before a grand jury against members of the Muslim community who they were prosecuting, even though this violated the terms of a plea agreement they had made with him.
The political targeting of Dr. Al-Arian—a former University of South Florida professor who has been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian people’s right to live free from occupation—stems back to the 1990s. After a decade of U.S. government and right-wing harassment, Dr. Al-Arian was arrested in 2003 in what the Bush administration touted as a significant use of their new Patriot Act powers, calling him a supporter and facilitator of terrorism.
After the U.S. government failed to convict Dr. Al-Arian on any of over 50 charges they brought against him, they violated the plea agreement they had made, attempting to force Dr. Al-Arian to testify and, when he refused, brought criminal contempt charges against him. He is now under house arrest in Virginia after having served years in prison, most of the time in solitary confinement.
Speakers at the press conference organized by the Tampa-based Friends of Human Rights included Dr. Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila Al-Arian; Rev. Marcia Free, the former pastor of the First United Church of Tampa; Lois Price, Mel Underbakke and Ester Kleine of Friends of Human Rights and the First United Church of Tampa; Ibrahim Ramey, the civil and human rights director of the Muslim American Society Freedom; Ramsey Kilic, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa; and Sarah Sloan of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Rep. Dennis Kucinich sent a message of support of Dr. Al-Arian.
Dr. Al-Arian’s family and supporters pledged to continue their struggle until all charges have been dropped and Dr. Al-Arian is free. They also made clear their commitment to supporting all those who have been targeted as part of the U.S. government’s war against the Arab and Muslim community.