After Intense Courtroom Battle, Trial PostponedProsecution emotionally accuses defense of carrying out personal attacks; Judge to attorneys: "Cool down!"
August 9, 2008 / Alexandria, VA -
On Friday, in a pre-trial hearing which witnessed one of the single most dramatic clashes between Dr. Sami Al-Arian's attorneys and the government, a federal judge unexpectedly postponed Dr. Al-Arian's trial on criminal contempt. The trial, originally scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday (August 13th), will now be delayed until the Supreme Court addresses the appeal submitted by Dr. Al-Arian's attorneys on the lawfulness of the federal subpoena which led to the contempt charges, a process which could take several months.
Several other important issues were vigorously debated by both sides. One of the defense's primary objections to the legality of the contempt charges was that the immunity order given to Dr. Al-Arian was not written in the standard language set forth by Congress. Not only that, government prosecutor Gordon Kromberg had concealed that his attempt to make such modifications had been stricken down by a federal judge for the very trial which Dr. Al-Arian has been summoned to testify in. Judge Brinkema expressed concern at this unorthodox practice, ordering all related documents to be turned over to the court before issuing a ruling. The judge indicated that a hearing could be held to determine whether the prosecutor had acted inappropriately and whether the immunity order given to Dr. Al-Arian was lawful. Assistant US Attorney Kromberg for his part vehemently denied any wrongdoing. During the course of the 90-minute hearing, Kromberg also complained to the court about public comments recently made by former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel. Kromberg claimed that Gravel had called for him to be stalked, further maintaining that the web log of lead defense attorney Jonathan Turley had incited such sentiments. In one moment of hyperbole, Kromberg went so far as to refer to the blog posts as "anti-Semitic."
Judge Brinkema cautioned both parties from allowing the case to "heat up", warning that she would not hesitate to replace attorneys on either side if the situation did not improve. Turley pointed out that the defense had publicly repudiated Gravel's comments, and further noted that, while Dr. Al-Arian and his family are continuously attacked by extremist websites, the defense has never attributed responsibility for such attacks to the government. Nevertheless, Turley offered to remove all postings related to Dr. Al-Arian's case from his website in order to help refocus attention on the more essential issues at hand.
Instead of calming down, however, the hour-and-a-half-long hearing ended on another heated note. After Judge Brinkema ordered that Dr. Al-Arian be released on bail under the custodianship of his eldest daughter, Kromberg abruptly objected, claiming that, as an Arab woman, Dr. Al-Arian's daughter would be too weak and submissive to oppose any potential attempt by Dr. Al-Arian to flee, saying that "in this particular [Arab-Islamic] culture, she would not be able to stop him from leaving..." Before the defense could express its objection however, the judge struck down Kromberg's objection, frankly noting that it was "insulting" not only to Dr. Al-Arian and his daughter, but to the Court as well. The audience in the courtroom was stunned by the prosecutor's overtly sexist and racist comments, though Kromberg has developed his notoriety for the bigotry displayed toward Arab and Muslim Americans.
Nevertheless, despite the judge's order to have Dr. Al-Arian released on bail, it is still not clear whether this will actually happen. Judge Brinkema had originally ordered bail for Dr. Al-Arian on July 10th, but the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used the pretext that it was in the process of deporting Dr. Al-Arian to keep him detained. With the trial months away, however, it is uncertain what exactly will happen next.
Civil Rights Forum To Discuss Sami Al-Arian's Case This Tuesday Charles ButterworthPeter ErlinderJohn VollAgha SaeedLinda MorenoNorman Finkelstein
This Tuesday night at 7 PM, prominent intellectuals and political activists will gather to speak about the importance of Dr. Al-Arian's case. Speakers include Professors Norman Finkelstein, John Voll, Peter Erlinder, Charles Butterworth, Dr. Agha Saeed, Attorney Linda Moreno, Laila Al-Arian, and more!
Time: Tuesday, August 12th, 7-9 PM
Venue: The Historical Society of Washington, 801 K Street NW (between 7th and 9th Streets NW, across from the Washington Convention Center), Washington DC [Click here to use Google Maps to find directions from your address]
Forum is open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
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