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USA vs Al-Arian
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My Family's Nightmare Caught on Film

December 3, 2007

By Laila Al-Arian

Link:Click here

For nearly one year, my father, Sami Al-Arian, has been imprisoned on civil contempt for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in Virginia. During plea negotiations in early 2006, federal prosecutors in Florida promised him he would not have to testify in any other cases. The moment he signed that agreement, his business with the government was supposed to have ended. He would serve the remainder of his sentence and finally be deported.

But a vindictive prosecutor from Virginia, Gordon Kromberg, resented that my father and his three co-defendants were largely acquitted by a jury following a lengthy trial in 2005. Kromberg is using every legal maneuver in his arsenal to prolong my father's imprisonment. A U.S. Attorney in Florida admitted, during a hearing regarding the plea agreement, that the boilerplate language dealing with cooperation was deleted from my father's agreement precisely because it was negotiated away. In Kromberg's world, his colleagues' words to my father, and the plea agreement both sides signed in good faith, are meaningless.

In his zeal to see my father locked away for as long as possible, Kromberg has shown an almost shameless degree of anti-Muslim animus. Perhaps it is no wonder he is the toast of neoconservative ideologues like Daniel Pipes, who hailed Kromberg's bigotry-laden rant about the "Islamization of the American justice system" as "courageous and valiant." Amnesty International has questioned Kromberg's motives, declaring that the biases he has demonstrated "raise[] further concern as to whether these proceedings are being taken to punish [Dr. Al-Arian] for his political profile rather than for legitimate purposes."

Prosecutors in Northern Virginia may soon charge my father with criminal contempt, according to a recent report in The New York Sun. This maneuver would be a shameless abuse of the criminal justice system and an abominable waste of U.S. taxpayer dollars. If prosecutors charge my father with criminal contempt, it will be obvious to everyone watching that it's nothing more than a case of sour grapes.

According to some estimates, the government has already squandered $50 million in its prosecution against my father. The trial was a resounding defeat for the government, which failed to prove its case that my father provided material support to terrorists. With the time in prison for civil contempt, my father has already served more time than he was sentenced. In February, he will have spent five years in prison. According to the plea agreement, my father was supposed to have been released from prison last April at the latest. But Kromberg and his DOJ cronies are abusing their power to lock him up indefinitely.

"From the beginning, it has been clear that this was a political prosecution and
the pursuit of contempt by the rogue prosecutor in the Eastern District of
Virginia have underscored this," said Linda Moreno, one of my father's trial
attorneys. "As I have often said, I support my government going after
terrorists and those who wish to do harm against my country. But I have never
represented a terrorist, and an American jury found that Dr. Al Arian was no

In May, at a sold-out screening in Tampa, Florida of USA vs. Al-Arian, an
award-winning documentary about the trial and the toll it took on my family, I
met Ron, one of the jurors who acquitted my father. "I'm sorry," Ron told me
repeatedly. He said he wished he could have done more and fully acquitted my
father. Two women on the jury refused to acquit my father of some charges, he
explained. When asked why by other jurors, they refused to present any reasons.
They disregarded the evidence in the case. Ron later elaborated at a panel
discussion following the screening:

"They wouldn't tell us why they said guilty," the juror said. "They came up with
really bad reasons, but most of the time it was 'I don't have to tell you. I
don't even need a reason. I can just say he's guilty because I think he's
guilty, and that's all'."

Both Ron and another juror interviewed in the 100-minute documentary said that
prosecutors tried to pressure them to convict my father by essentially telling
them, "Use your common sense." Actual proof was an afterthought.

The case against my father was predicated in large part on thousands of hours of
conversations, most of which were presented out of context. Soon after
deliberations began, according to Ron, most of the jurors realized "the State
hadn't met its own standards" for conviction.

The documentary USA vs. Al-Arian, depicts my father's trial, documenting
everything from the bomb-sniffing dogs hired to provide security outside the
courthouse to the sensationalistic and often woefully inadequate news coverage
of the case. One local television reporter confidently summarized my father's
case as one about the conflict between "Palestinians and Israelites."

For several months, my family gave Norwegian director Line Halvorsen and her
cinematographer Tone Andersen, total access to our lives. Though my siblings and
I sometimes complained about the constant presence of cameras, which felt like
extra eyes scrutinizing us during an emotionally turbulent time, my mother felt
differently. She believed there should be a permanent record of the collateral
damage of the U.S. government's misguided war on terror. At times, the project
seemed like a bizarre version of The Real World directed by Franz Kafka. Though
I've seen the film dozens of times, some scenes, such as those in which my
mother is breaks down in tears, are still difficult to digest.

(USA v. Al-Arian will be showing at Washington, D.C.'s Uptown Theater on
December 5 and will be followed by a panel discussion led by Democracy Now! host
Amy Goodman.)

In another scene, my family listened to a recording of my mother ordering a Big
Foot pizza years earlier. My mother's two-minute conversation with a Pizza Hut
dispatcher was one of half a million calls recorded by the FBI during a decade
of relentless surveillance. One minute we're laughing at the memory of a
strange, super-sized square pizza. But the next minute, we feel queasy at the
thought of federal agents in dark suits listening to every intimate detail of
our lives, from take-out orders to idle chitchat with friends.

The results of the FBI's reckless investigation caused Ron the juror to
conclude, "We decided that there was no evidence. It wasn't that it was weak or
poorly constructed. It just wasn't there. Political beliefs, personal beliefs,
social beliefs, but I saw no evidence of anybody doing anything that they were
accused of."

"I am concerned about the about the use of the grand jury process to keep adding
to Dr. Al-Arian's jail time with no end in sight," said Rev. Warren Clark, a
pastor of a church in Tampa. "Is this a way to "Guantanamo" political prisoners
within the United States?"

The threat of more prison time now looms over my father and his family. All we
can do is watch and wait. One of the most potent forms of torture is
uncertainty; not knowing when your prison term will end or what other tricks the
government will use to prolong your detention. And my father isn't the only one
being punished for his acquittal. Watching my adolescent brother and sister grow
up without a father during the most critical years of
their young lives has not been easy.

In a way, I understand and even sympathize with the desperate fantasy of Ali
al-Marri, a Qatari citizen who has been held as an enemy combatant in a South
Carolina brig without charge since 2003. "I'd love to be taken back to Saudi
Arabia and they would beat the ---- out of me for six months," al-Marri said.
"It would be brutal, but it would be finite."

My father's nightmare, similarly, appears to have no end in sight.

Documents & Releases

Statement of Chairs of American Muslim Task-Force on Civil Rights and Elections  (AMT) and  Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Howard Zinn Statement on Professor Al-Arian



March 2000

December 2005alarian.jpg

January 2009

To be patriotic is to be able to question government policy in times of crisis.
To be patriotic is to stand up for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in times of uncertainty and insecurity.
To be patriotic is to  speak up against the powerful in defense of the weak and the voiceless.
To be patriotic is to be willing to pay the price to preserve our freedoms, dignity, and rights.
To be patriotic is to
challenge the abuses of the PATRIOT Act.
From a speech by Dr. Al-Arian


UFF Summary: Al-Arian and USF


Announcement of Book: The Al-Arian Reader

A new compilation of all relevant articles to be released soon by the National Liberty Fund

Selected Poems
by Sami Al-Arian

We Shall Rise

To Maya Angelou
Like the dream of the slave
You rise
And with the scream of the brave
I shall rise
In honoring the memory of your ancestors
You rise
With my stateless brothers and sisters
I shall rise
Like dust in the sunlight
You rise
And as ashes in a fiery night
I shall rise
You offend
Because of your existence
And I
For my resistance
You upset them
Recalling their past
And I
By holding steadfast
They may trod you in dirt
May cause me all the hurt
Inflict upon you excruciating pain
While they shut me up and detain
But they won't see you broken
Neither would my faith be forsaken
As you've never bowed your head
And never lowered your eyes
I'll continue to raise my fist
And hide my mother's cries
They may shoot you with their words
Cut me up with their swords
They may insult you with their eyes
Denigrate me with their lies
Trying to kill you with their hate
Bury me alive to seal my fate
But they'd certainly
Be shamed and fail
As the free chant and sing
On their march to prevail
So keep your head held high
As I follow you and try
And keep your beautiful smile
As I walk my first mile
They'll pressure and blame
Throw us in prison to control and tame
They'll exile and defame
Lynch us all or shoot and maim
Burn crosses with no shame
Target our children in a dirty game
But why is that a surprise?
Despite their evil and terror
Their falsehood and lies
You shall rise
And I shall rise
You're the black ocean
Leaping and wide
I'm the Mediterranean
With a stormy tide
Staying together
Side by side
It's no surprise
We shall rise
Surely shall rise
We together shall rise
No Longer Afraid
For us to feel "secure"
What price is being paid?
If living in freedom
Why are we afraid?
Fear is everywhere
All around
Perhaps irrational
But without any bound
You can see it on our faces
Sense it in our eyes
You can hear it in our whispers
Feel it in our cries
More>>No Longer Afraid
The Bird and The Vulture
The bird was chirping
In a house on a tree
But the vulture was angry
Because it was free
When the bird is singing
The vulture ain't safe
More>>The Bird and The Vulture
The Smile of Freedom
He looked like
A body-builder
Tall, tough, and full
All muscles and no fat
His mind was simple
Suited to follow orders
No questions asked
Acting mean and mechanical
Like any bureaucrat
More>>The Smile ...
In the Name of Freedom
In the name of freedom
We shall rule the world
To spread democracy
And set you free
In the name of freedom
We’ll descend on you
To make you civilized
Modern and orderly
More>>In the Name ...
The Accused: Franz Kafka Meets George Orwell in 21st Century America
Act I: The Mother of all Evidence
Act II- Weapons of Mass Deception
Act III: Silencing of the Lambs
Act IV: Attacks of the Wolves
Act V: Occupied Territory
Act VI: Police State
Act VII: Official Obituary
Act VIII: A Close Encounter of the Scariest Kind
Act IX: The Inquisition
Act X- Conspiracy Theory
Act XI- Secret Trials
Act XII- Silent Pain and Teary Eyes
Act XIII- True Patriot Acts
Do Not Sign
Rights are not for sale
History is not kind
On those who sell their people out,
Betray their cause,
Surrender their land
To tow the line
Do not sign
More>>Do Not Sign
Rachel Corrie: Daughter of Palestine
The most gentle
Amongst all honorable
Had a spirit
As dazzling as
The garden of
More>>Daughter of Palestine
Ole Jerusalem
O Ole Jerusalem
I feel your pain
I hear your cries
The light thunder
In the darkness
And the heavy rain
I see the steady bleeding
Of your wound
With its mark and stain
More>>Ole Jerusalem
Patrick Henry
A revolutionary
At heart
A patriot
From the start
Loved by his country
To the core
Defended freedom
Even more
Hated arrogance
In shape and tone
Fought tyranny
With every bone
He was the conscience
Of his people
Striking fear in the enemy
And made it feeble
More>> Patrick Henry
An overwhelming feeling
Of bitterness
Of hatred and rage
Trapped in a cage
Disappointment and anger
Continuing to linger
Wounding of dignity
Violating your virginity
More>> Injustice
Political Riddles
He sees the world as black and white
His solution to every quandary is fight with might
The economy will not stimulate
Because he can’t articulate
While jobs are gone
He says, “bring ‘em on.”
Who is he?
He likes to be called the General
The head of an agency that’s federal
If you spit on the sidewalk
He’ll send the Incredible Hulk
He hates to cite truth or fact
Because he’s busy promoting his unpatriotic act
He frequents TV cameras with a smash
The first part of his last name sounds like trash
Who is he?
He is the ideal dutiful poodle they say
From an empire where the sun did not set one day
He adores his cowboy friend and considers him a fan
And insists: I’m nobody’s yes-man
When the cowboy says no, I say no
Who is he?
More>>Political Riddles