July 22, 2013
By Masao Suzuki |
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San José, CA – On July 19, some 25 people gathered at the San José Peace and Justice Center to watch the film USA vs. Al-Arian. The event was organized by the South Bay Committee Against Political Repression (SBCAPR) and emceed by Donna Wallach of the SBCAPR.
The Norwegian-made film took a personal look at the trial of University of South Florida computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian. Professor Al-Arian was a Palestinian American civil rights and Palestine solidarity activist who was arrested and put on trial for aiding the Palestinian resistance organization Islam Jihad in 2003.
After spending more than ten years spying on Al-Arian and intercepting more than 400,000 phone calls, the government could not get a guilty verdict on any of the 17 charges. After spending two years in jail while on trial and faced with another trial and more years away from his family, Al-Arian made a plea deal, agreeing to leave the country and going into political exile.
The film had a very personal look at Al-Arian’s family and the stress that it caused them, and the support that he had from the community. After the film there was a discussion with two panelists, Summer Hararah of the Muslim Legal Fund of America and Cyrus McCormick of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.
The audience learned that instead of letting professor Al-Arian serve time and leave the country, a federal grand jury in Virginia called on Al-Arian to testify, which he refused. He then was charged with contempt and jailed. Finally, in 2008 he was released under house arrest which continues to this day.