The Verdict’s Seventh Anniversary: December 6 should Be Celebrated as “First Amendment Day”

Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace

The Verdict’s Seventh Anniversary:
December 6 should be celebrated as
“First Amendment Day”

Watch on 
“The Al-Arian Trial:
An Inside Look by A Juror”

For immediate release-

WASHINGTON DC – Dec. 6, 2012

December 6, 2005 shall be remembered as a great day in which justice triumphed over intolerance and the First Amendment reigned supreme. On that day, a jury of twelve ordinary citizens refused to return a single guilty verdict against Dr. Sami Al-Arian and three other Palestinian men accused of terrorism in one of the most high profile cases to emerge out of the highly charged atmosphere after 9/11.

Notwithstanding the concerted efforts by the government to instill fear into the public’s hearts and minds during the trial, coupled with an elaborate intimidation campaign against Arabs and Muslims in the Tampa Bay area, an American jury was able to sit through a six-month trial and uphold the Constitution, despite being subjected to “a mountain of evidence,” as one prosecutor referred to the government’s case. In reality, this “evidence” encompassed activities protected by the First Amendment: speech, beliefs, thoughts, opinions, and associations.

Remarkably, much of the media coverage blurred the line between factual reporting and advocating for the prosecution, disregarding journalistic standards in a disgraceful and sensationalist display that resulted in a trial in the court of public opinion that was more akin to a lynch mob. In spite of these pressures, the courtroom jury was, in the words of one juror, able to see through the “smoke and mirrors” displayed by the government.

In his statement a few months later, Dr. Al-Arian thanked the jury for its “remarkable courage and efforts in the service of justice” in the case. He further stated that serving justice through “an impartial and conscientious jury” is how America could “win the hearts and minds of people across the globe, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.” By rendering a just verdict, the jury understood Martin Luther King’s famous statement, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. Al-Arian’s defense did not present a single witness despite eighty witnesses offered by the government. The First Amendment was his only defense, a position validated by the jury’s verdict, and the reason that this decision to uphold one of the most sacred founding principles of the United State should be remembered every year on this day. We call upon all First Amendment advocates and people of conscience to honor the First Amendment every year on this day. It protects all of us.

On this day, this great jury stood for the primacy of free speech over government censorship and criminalization of speech. As former Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, once said, “Above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

Some time ago the National Liberty Fund (NLF) released a video interview with Ron, a member of the jury who demonstrated his courage in this trial. It is an eyeopening account that presents an inside look at how the jury deliberated and reached its decision for acquittal on major terrorism charges despite thousands of highly inflammatory and prejudicial assertions made by the prosecution.

The interview is featured on YouTube in 3 parts: Part I, Part II, and Part III. The video-interview (total: 26 min.) appears courtesy of Line Halvorsen and Jan Dalchow, the filmmakers behind USA VS. AL-ARIAN, the award-winning Norwegian documentary.

But despite the acquittals and the conclusion of the case between the government and Dr. A-Arian through a plea deal, the case is not over yet after almost nine years (5 1/2 of which were spent in prison including 43 months in solitary confinement) of unjustly persecuting the Muslim Palestinian professor.

Since September 2008 Dr. Al-Arian has been under house arrest in the Washington DC area. He awaits a ruling by a federal judge on a motion to dismiss the unjust contempt charges brought against him by the government after he was acquitted by a jury.

On this day we also remember Thomas Jefferson, one of the great founding fathers of this nation who understood the true meaning of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but above all the inviolability of justice when he said: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” To honor his words, we must not rest until all those who have been denied justice or continue to await justice will finally receive it.

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