Timeline of Case 2001-present
December 19, 2001: As the pro-Israel groups mount a media and public campaign to fire Dr. Al-Arian, and without warning or affording him due-process USF Board of Trustees votes to terminate Professor Al-Arian upon the request of Genshaft.
Jan.-Feb. 2002: USF President Genshaft meets with politicians and US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida regarding the termination of Prof. Al-Arian. US Attorney office announces a grand jury investigation.
Feb.-April 2002: American Association of University Professors (AAUP) appoints a 3-member committee to investigate the termination process. After an in depth investigation, the committee warns the university that the termination is unwarranted, violates the principles of due-process and academic freedom, and if carried out will be grounds to sanction the university. The faculty unions at USF, state wide and nationally back Professor Al-Arian and condemn USF administrators’ actions.
August 2002: Genshaft offers Professor Al-Arian almost $1M to resign. USF board chairman objects and solicits the help of Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. They ask for more time. Genshaft sues Dr. Al-Arian and asks a state court for permission to fire him.
The Federal Grand jury investigation accelerates.
October 2002: USF loses in state court. It sues Dr. Al-Arian in federal court.
Nov.-Dec. 2002: Several Israeli publications report that the Israeli government is cooperating with the US government in securing an indictment against Prof. Al-Arian.
December 2002: USF loses in federal court.
January 2003: Dr. Al-Arian and the faculty union start the first step in re-instating him to his tenured position. AAUP warns USF of imminent sanctions unless Prof. Al-Arian is reinstated immediately.
February 20, 2003: Dr. Sami Al-Arian is arrested before dawn and charged in a 53-count indictment in a terrorism case against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Charges include conspiracy to murder people outside the United States. Strangely enough, a photographer from the Tampa Tribune, the local rightwing newspaper, accompanies the federal agents. On his way to the courthouse, Dr. Al-Arian declares to the waiting reporters “it’s all politics.”
That day, Dr. Al-Arian begins a liquid-only hunger strike that continues for the next 140 days. He as well as his co-defendants are kept in isolation at the local Orient Road Jail in Tampa.
February 26, 2003: Less than one week after Dr. Al-Arian is charged, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft fires Dr. Al-Arian from his position as an award-winning tenured professor, under pressure from the Board of Trustees, after over a year of trying to do so, at the height of post-9/11 hysteria surrounding his constitutionally protected activities.
March 20, 2003: The bail hearing for Dr. Al-Arian and his co-defendants lasts four days and features over thirty-five witnesses in defense of their character, with the prosecution providing no witnesses and no evidence, and failing to show that any of the men are flight risks or threats to national security. Weeks later, Magistrate Mark Pizzo denies bail to Dr. Al-Arian and co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh. The other 2 co-defendants Hatim Fariz and Ghassan Ballut, both U.S. citizens, are granted bail.
March 27, 2003: The men were moved from the local jail in Tampa, Florida to a maximum-security federal penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, 75 miles away.
Conditions were as follows:
They were housed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU), a maximum-security area for the discipline of convicted criminals who have committed violations within the prison.
Dr. Al-Arian and Hammoudeh shared a 6 x 9 cell, where they remained for 23-hour lockdown. When they were allowed to leave, they were placed in a slightly larger cell a few feet away for recreation one hour a day.
They were only allowed non-contact visits with immediate family members. No one else was allowed to visit at all, other than Dr. Al-Arian’s lawyer. Meanwhile, convicted criminals at the penitentiary are allowed contact visits with family and friends.
When Dr. Al-Arian was taken to meet with his lawyer, he was shackled and handcuffed behind his back. He was bent over and forced to carry his legal papers on his back, like a beast of burden. He was strip-searched any time he left or entered his cell. This continued for several months.
He was subjected to deafening noise throughout the day and the lights were under the control of the guards and rarely turned off.
Access to lawyers, telephones, and even pencils was severely limited. All mail, including legal mail from lawyers, was opened before he received it.
He is denied access to any religious service, and access to a watch.
He was allowed to make only one 15-minuted call per month. And for 6 months (between June and December 2003), he was denied all phone calls.
April 8, 2003: Unable to raise enough funds for private attorneys, Dr. Al-Arian is appointed attorneys by Magistrate Thomas McCoun. In the months ahead, little progress is made.
April 10, 2003: Dr. Al-Arian and Mr. Hammoudeh are denied bail, while Hatim Fariz and Ghassan Ballut are released from Coleman Federal Penitentiary. Also, a new civil rights organization, the National Liberty Fund (NLF) announces it will be taking on the case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian and organizes a number of events across the country in the following months.
June 5, 2003: Judge Moody announces the trial date to be no sooner than January 2005, nearly two years following the arrest despite the fact that Dr. Al-Arian never waived his constitutional right to a speedy trial (i.e. to hold his trial within 70 days of his arrest.)
June 15, 2003: In its annual meeting, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) condemns the University of South Florida, stating that it violated the rights of Dr. Al-Arian to due process and academic freedom.
June 18, 2003: Upon making a telephone call to his home and then to his son who was studying abroad, Dr. Al-Arian is punished for violating Coleman's ban on three-way calling when he was connected to his son without his knowledge. He is given a six-month ban on all telephone calls.
July 17, 2003: Respected human rights organization Amnesty International writes a letter to the Justice Department condemning the conditions under which Dr. Al-Arian is kept, including the 23-hour lockdown, strip searches, use of chains and shackles, severely limited recreation, lack of access to any religious services and denial of a watch or clock in a windowless cell where the artificial lights are rarely turned off.
July 25, 2003: Dr. Al-Arian is allowed to fire his court-appointed attorneys following months of little progress in his case or improvements in the conditions of confinement. He chooses to act as his own attorney. In preparation for his self-representation, he ends his liquid only hunger strike after 140 days and losing 45 pounds.
September 8, 2003: Dr. Al-Arian is moved to Tampa for discovery (i.e. to examine evidence.) He remains there less than four weeks, despite the fact that there are over 400,000 documents, records of 120 bank accounts and credit cards dating back to 1986, over 750 video tapes, more than 1000 audio tapes, about 21,000 hours of over 472,000 intercepted phone calls, in addition to hundreds of facsimiles.
September 12, 2003: Following a frustrating few months of little development for Dr. Al-Arian's case or improvement in his confinement, Judge Moody rules that the 472,000 calls in 21,000 hours of taped conversations classified by the government must be released to defense attorneys, but they are barred from releasing them to the public or discussing them with anyone other than their clients. The process of providing these tapes to the defense is slow and tedious.
October 6, 2003: Dr. Al-Arian is returned to the Federal Penitentiary in Coleman.
October 29, 2003: After three months of representing himself, Dr. Al-Arian hires respected Washington DC attorney William B. Moffitt and the experienced local lawyer Linda Moreno to represent him.
December 9, 2003: An article in the Chicago Tribune reveals that key evidence in the case was destroyed by federal authorities. The search warrants and other related materials from the early searches of Dr. Al-Arian's home and office were mistakenly shredded by court officials. Subsequently, the judge denies motions to hold a hearing regarding the shredding of the documents and whether the searches are unconstitutional despite overwhelming evidence of a general search.
January 20, 2004: Sameeh Hammoudeh is denied his request in a rehearing for bail. A judge also orders the government to release more of its evidence. The government narrows its use of wiretapped conversation from the 21,000 hours to 200 hours of phone conversations. Defense attorneys file dozens of motions including a motion to dismiss the indictment based on the First Amendment. All defense motions are subsequently denied.
October 2004: Dr. Al-Arian was returned to Tampa in the county jail for about two months for discovery.
December 7, 2004: Dr. Al-Arian was returned to Coleman.
December 9, 2004. At Coleman, a period of “lockdown” begins and continues most of the next 60 days. During this lockdown, Dr. Al-Arian is allowed no visitors, including family member and attorneys. He is not allowed to leave his cell under any circumstances. Although he is a diabetic, his blood sugar is never checked.
During these 60 days, he is given one telephone call, one attorney visit, and severely limited access to the evidence though the trial date is only a few months away.
February 8, 2005: Dr. Al-Arian is moved back to the Orient Road Jail in Tampa.
He is still in solitary confinement, and although he is housed alone in a four-cell unit, he is only allowed outside of his cell one hour per day. This hour is his only access to showers, telephones, or exercise.
June 6, 2005: The trial begins. The government calls 80 witnesses, including 21 from Israel. The evidence includes lectures Dr. Al-Arian presented, speeches he gave, articles he wrote, magazines he edited, conferences he convened, rallies he attended, books he read, websites he never accessed, and even a conversation that one of his co-defendants had with him in a dream. A few months later, Dr. Al-Arian’ defense rests without calling a single witness.
December 6, 2005: The trial ends. Although Judge Moody instructed the jury to continue deliberations the previous day, he then looks at the partial verdicts and upon realizing that the jury was in the process of acquitting all defendants, abruptly stops deliberations the following day. The jury acquits Dr. Al-Arian of the most serious terrorism charges and does not return a single guilty verdict. Local newspaper reports later reveal that ten out of twelve jurors voted for a total acquittal of the remaining charges. Co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Ballout are acquitted of all charges. In spite of the verdict, Dr. Al-Arian remains in jail in solitary confinement. To bring this to an end, he agreed to enter negotiations with the government.
February 28, 2006: Dr. Al-Arian does not want to spend another year or more in prison awaiting a retrial, so he agrees to plead guilty to the remaining count with the lowest sentence possible. The parties fashioned a count for providing services to individuals the government claims were associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad so as to end the case. The facts of the count were: 1) hiring attorneys for his brother-in-law in a 1997 immigration case; 2) sponsoring a researcher for the USF-affiliated think tank in 1994; and 3) failure to disclose his knowledge of another person’s association with the group to a newspaper reporter. In exchange, Dr. Al-Arian is offered time served followed by a speedy deportation. The government acknowledges that Al-Arian's activities were nonviolent and that his actions created no victims. During the negotiations he insisted on removing the standard clause regarding cooperation with the government. The Department of Justice agrees to remove that language from the plea agreement.
May 1, 2006: At the sentencing hearing, Judge James S. Moody, Jr. stuns onlookers by rejecting the recommendation of prosecutors and giving Dr. Al-Arian the maximum sentence allowed under the plea agreement. He makes a highly charged statement contradicting the evidence presented at trial, the jury’s findings and the facts presented by the government in the plea agreement. The judge in fact contradicted himself since the plea deal, which stated that there were no victims, had to be approved by him before it was to take effect. Projected release date is April 11, 2007.
October 2006: Although the plea agreement released Dr. Al-Arian from cooperating with government and grand jury investigations, Gordon Kromberg, Assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, summons him to testify before a grand jury looking into an unrelated case of alleged terror funding.
November 16, 2006: Because he refuses to testify, Al-Arian is placed under civil contempt until December 21, 2006, when the grand jury term expires. The time spent under civil contempt does not count toward fulfilling the remainder of his sentence.
January 22, 2007: Dr. Al-Arian is again summoned to testify before a second grand jury. After refusing to testify, he is once again placed under civil contempt-postponing his release for another 11 months. He begins a water-only hunger strike to protest his treatment, and the government’s abuse of power, as well as his continued incarceration for his refusal to testify before the grand jury. Friends of Human Rights and supporters around the world join him in his hunger strike.
February 13, 2007: Dr. Al-Arian collapses and is moved to a federal medical facility in Butner, NC.
March 22, 2007: At his family’s urging, Dr. Al-Arian ends the hunger strike after 60 days. He has lost 55 pounds (25 percent of his bodyweight), and has become confined to a wheel chair while in solitary confinement. When Dr. Melva Underbekke of Tampa, visited him in the prison hospital in North Carolina, she described him as a skeleton. She was convinced that the officials planned to let him starve to death.
October 16, 2007: Dr. Al-Arian is subpoenaed before the grand jury and again refuses to testify citing his plea agreement and pending appeal.
December 13, 2007: The Virginia judge lifts the civil contempt order-in place since January—after the expiration of the term of the second grand jury.
March 3, 2008: Upon being told that the government was about to call him again before a third grand jury, Dr. Al-Arian embarks on another hunger strike to protest continued government abuse. For the next 18 days he loses more than 25 pounds, as he takes neither food nor water.
March 20, 2008: Kromberg has Dr. Al-Arian brought from the medical facility in a highly weakened state in order to testify before a third grand jury, despite the fact that the prosecutors were told that he would refuse to testify. Dr. Al-Arian again refuses to testify citing his plea agreement, pending appeal and his weakened state. He continues his hunger strike on water only for the next five weeks.
April 11, 2008: His original sentence is finally completed, after it was suspended for one year because of the civil contempt sentence. Dr. Al-Arian is hence transferred into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Instead of expeditiously deporting him as promised by the plea agreement, ICE keeps him detained indefinitely.
April 15, 2008: After being transferred to three different prisons in five days, Dr. Al-Arian is taken to a prison in rural Virginia. He is placed in a 24-hour lockdown and solitary confinement with virtually no access to telephone or visitation. He is placed on suicide watch, meaning his normal clothing, undergarments, glasses, pillow, and bed sheets are taken from him. Jail officials receive hundreds of telephone calls protesting this treatment before they remove some of these restrictions.
April 26, 2008: After 54 days, Dr. Al-Arian suspends his hunger strike in response to the appeal by his family, lawyers and supporters. He has lost 40 pounds and continues to suffer from a hernia for which the government has refused him treatment.
June 26, 2008: Kromberg indicts Dr. Al-Arian on two charges of criminal contempt for refusing to testify in the October 2007 and March 2008 appearances before the grand juries, even though Dr. Al-Arian provided two detailed affidavits regarding the issues on which they have sought his testimony. He has also repeatedly offered to undergo a polygraph examination to prove that he was telling the truth. A few days later on June 30, Dr. Al-Arian is transferred to the custody of the US Marshals to await trial on the criminal contempt charges. At the arraignment, a plea of not guilty is entered by the presiding judge.
July 10, 2008: Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia orders Dr. Al-Arian released on bail. The government blocks his release, claiming that ICE must detain him while preparing to deport him.
August 8, 2008: Judge Brinkema postpones the criminal contempt trial pending a Supreme Court ruling on Dr. Al-Arian's appeal challenging the government's right to compel him to testify. She also cites concerns regarding the constitutionality of the immunity orders.
August 25, 2008: Dr. Al-Arian's attorneys file a habeas petition demanding his release on bail. Judge Brinkema gives the government until September 2 to explain why it should keep him jailed.
September 2, 2008: ICE responds to judge Brinkema's deadline by requesting that Dr. Al-Arian be released from its custody. After 2020 days in prison, Dr. Al-Arian walks out of jail.
Out of jail, but not free. Currently, Dr. Al-Arian is under continuous GPS monitoring and house arrest, awaiting the next development – probably a trial for criminal contempt. If convicted, he could spend additional years in prison.
October 15, 2008: Several motions were filed by the defense including a selective prosecution motion since no other criminal contempt charges were filed in the EDVA in at least the last ten years. Another motion to dismiss the charges was also filed based on the invalidity of the immunity orders where prosecutor Kromberg had additional language and crimes not exempted nor approved by congress.
January 16, 2009: Judge Brinkema denies the defense motions. A trial date of March 9 is set.
During his imprisonment from Feb. 20, 2003 to September 2, 2008
Dr. Al-Arian was transferred to 14 different prison facilities in 6 states including several transfers to the same prison. During most of that time he was in solitary confinement with 23-hr or 24-hr lockdowns including the first 41 months of his incarceration (from 2-20-03 to 7-6-06). In the last few weeks when he was in the custody of the immigration authorities he was transferred to 6 different prisons. These facilities were:
1. Orient Road Jail in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida.
2. Coleman Federal Penitentiary, Coleman, Florida.
3. Tallahassee Federal Correctional Facility, Tallahassee, Florida.
4. Atlanta Federal Prison Facility, Atlanta, Georgia.
5. Oklahoma Federal Correctional Complex, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
6. Coleman Federal Medium Correctional Facility, Coleman, Florida.
7. Northern Neck Regional Jail, Warsaw, Virginia.
8. Butner Federal Medical Correctional Facility, Butner, North Carolina.
9. Petersburg Federal Correctional Facility, Petersburg, Virginia.
10. Howard County Jail, Jessup, Maryland.
11. Hampton Roads Regional Jail, Portsmouth, Virginia.
12. Winchester Regional Jail, Winchester, Virginia.
13. Pamunkey Regional Jail, Pamunkey, Virginia.
14. Alexandria Detention Center, Alexandria, Virginia.
-------------------------------Legal Representation for Dr. Al-Arian (2002-current)