October 16, 2010 OpEdNews
By Stephen Lendman
Earlier articles explained his ordeal, a man Bush administration
prosecutors hounded, persecuted, and imprisoned on bogus charges.
Though free on bail, Al-Arian remains politically imprisoned like
many hundreds of others behind bars. Because of his faith, ethnicity,
prominence and political activism, he was accused of supporting
"terrorism" and other outrageous charges.
In fact, he's a Palestinian refugee, a distinguished professor,
scholar, community leader, and civil activist, a man deserving honor,
not incarceration doing hard time until released after five and half
years of brutal treatment, including solitary confinement in rat and
He was denied religious services, got no watch or clock, and was kept
in windowless cells with artificial lights kept on round the clock.
Whenever outside his cell, he was also shackled hands behind back and
ankles. In protest, he staged hunger strikes, long enough to endanger is life.
A Brief Timeline of His Case
FBI investigations hounded him for 11 years, spending millions of
dollars for half a million phone wiretaps, searches and other forms
Events came to a head at 5AM on February 20, 2003 when FBI agents and
Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officers stormed his home guns
drawn. They arrested him and three others separately on spurious
charges of supporting terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder,
racketeering, giving material support to an outlawed group,
extortion, perjury, and other offenses proved bogus in court.
On February 27, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft
fired him, acting as a Bush administration stooge.
At his four day March bail hearing, prosecutors provided no evidence,
witnesses, or any reason to hold him. Nonetheless, he and
co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh were denied bail.
On March 27, he was incarcerated at maximum security federal
penitentiary, Coleman, FL after initially held in jail. Later he was
transferred repeatedly to other federal prisons.
In June 2005, his trial began. It was a witch-hunt travesty with
phony evidence, the kind prosecutors use when they have none. Despite
spending around $50 million for years of investigations and six
months of trial, jurors exonerated him on eight serious charges,
remaining deadlocked 10 - 2 for acquittal on nine lesser ones.
On March 2, 2006, fearing retrial, he agreed to plead guilty to one
minor charge, be freed, then reunited with his family and deported.
But it didn't end there.
Assistant prosecutor Gordon Kromberg ordered him before a grand jury,
violating terms of his plea bargain. Fearing entrapment, he refused,
was held in contempt, again imprisoned, and sentenced to 18 months
without mitigation - a clear effort to keep hounding and imprison him.
At the time, his attorney, Professor Jonathan Turley, called the
Justice Department's ploy "a classic perjury trap used repeatedly by
the government to punish those individuals who could not be convicted
before an American jury."
Al-Arian appealed and remained imprisoned until released on bail on
September 2, 2008 under house arrest, pending trial for criminal
contempt. For the first time in over five years, he was reunited with
his family, but his ordeal continues.
On October 29, 2010, a new hearing will be held before federal Judge
Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia to decide whether
criminal contempt charges will be pursued or dropped.
Under Obama, prosecutors are as ruthlessly corrupted as their
predecessors, using every trick in the book to convict, whether
guilty or innocent, and when trials are politically motivated,
intensifying pressure even more. The Justice Department thus filed a
motion to deny a defense one, filed 18 months earlier to dismiss
criminal contempt charges. Three previous DOJ motions were rejected.
This time, Holder prosecutors not only requested denying the
defense's dismissal request, but asked Judge Brinkema to reverse her
earlier decision letting Al-Arian's attorneys present evidence in
case of trial.
In March 2009, she backed the defense's request to file a motion to
dismiss Al-Arian's charges, saying she'd rule later at further
hearings, and expressing concern over government "bait and switch" tactics:
"where Dr. Al-Arian and his counsel were assured that, if he agreed
to plead guilty (to one minor charge), he would not be subject to any
further involvement with the Justice Department beyond his
deportation following the completion of his sentence." Bush
prosecutors reneged on the agreement, Obama ones as contemptuous.
Like earlier departments under Ashcroft, Gonzales, and Mukasey,
Holder shows equal contempt for the law and judicial fairness,
presenting a challenge for the most competent defense lawyers.
Al-Arian, however, is well represented, his team led by Professor
Jonathan Turley, a recognized legal scholar who's written extensively
on constitutional and tort law as well as legal theory and other
topics. With him are attorneys William E. Olsen and Philip J. Meitl.
On October 29, at 8:30AM, Al-Arian's hearing will be held at the
Albert V. Bryan US Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
The freesamialarian site calls it his "most important" one so far,
more than others up to now. His freedom and future depend on the outcome.
Some Final Comments
In July 2003, Amnesty International (AI) wrote US prosecutors,
"calling for a review of the pre-trial detention conditions of Dr.
Sami Al-Arian, aspects of which it said appeared to be 'gratuitously
punitive,' " and a breach of international standards.
In December 2005, AI sought fair procedures to resolve his case after
jurors acquitted him of terrorist and other serious charges. AI noted
his harsh solitary confinement, calling it "unnecessarily punitive."
In August 2008, Howard Zinn said:
"I thought that (Al-Arian's case) was an outrageous violation of
human rights, both from a constitutional point of view and as a
simple test of justice."
His former appeals attorney, Professor Peter Erlinder and former
National Lawyers Guild president said:
"The prosecution of Dr. Sami Al-Arian was a blatant attempt to
silence political speech and dissent in the aftermath of the 9/11
tragedy. The nature of the political persecution of this case has
been demonstrated throughout all its aspects, not only during the
trial and the never-ending right-wing media onslaught, but also after
the stunning defeat of the government in 2005, and its ill-advised
abuse of the grand jury system thereafter."
Throughout his ordeal, many other individuals and organizations
expressed support, demanding justice and an end to prosecutorial
ruthlessness, false imprisonment, and contempt for the rule of law.
In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers produced a documentary titled, USA v.
Al-Arian. An updated 2009 version is now available. Access the
following link to order:
Al-Arian was targeted for his ethnicity, prominence, activism, and
for being Muslim at the wrong time in America. Washington's police
state harshness makes everyone just as vulnerable.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at
sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with
distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the
Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and
Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
October 16, 2010 OpEdNews