Protest at Prison Draws Crowd of Supporters for Dr. Sami Al-Arian (3/26)
Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2007 15:51:09 +0000
Subject: -[TBCJP]- Protest at Prison Draws Crowd of Supporters for Dr. Sami Al-Arian
TAMPA -- Last Friday, dozens of supporters gathered in Butner, North
Carolina in solidarity with Dr. Sami Al-Arian. Below, please see two
news reports about the event and a press release from one of the
organizers, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Protest at Prison Draws Crowd of Supporters for Dr. Sami Al-Arian
WASHINGTON, DC - Mar. 24, 2007 (MASNET) A resolute crowd of 100
people assembled in Butner, North Carolina to show support for Dr.
Sami Arian despite the denial of his appeal that would have set him
free in a matter of days. This continued cancellation of justice did
not interrupt local support that has been preceded by national and
international support for the former tenured University of South
Florida computer science professor. Supporters came from as far away
as Tampa to participate in this occasion. The morning event was
covered by the Raleigh News and Observer, AP; Durham Herald Sun, the
UNC Daily Tarheel and the NC State University Technician. Statements
of appreciation were offered by Nahla Al-Arian, wife of the doctor.
Once billed as a major strike in the war on terrorism, the case
against Dr. Sami Al-Arian seemed to crumble when jurors rejected
federal charges that Dr. Al-Arian and three co-defendants operated a
North American cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The
government moved swiftly to combat the decision of the jury by
compromising the plea agreement originally promised.
The case continues to galvanized supporters who recognize that Dr Al-
Arian is a victim of an overzealous U.S. Justice Department and of
anti-Muslim prejudice stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.
Growing concern arose after Dr. Al-Arian began and continued a
hunger strike of 60 days which was not modified until yesterday,
prior to learning that his appeal had been denied. It is unknown
whether Dr. Al-Arian will resume his fast for justice.
Khalilah Sabra, Director of the North Carolina chapter of the Muslim
American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, reminded those in
attendance at the gathering that on February 5th, 2003 Dr. Al-Arian
wrote a statement which said," I am crucified today because of who I
am: a stateless Palestinian, an Arab, a Muslim and an outspoken
advocate for Palestinian rights, but more a persistent defender for
civil and constitutional rights on the home front." She concluded to
mention that she was saddened and disappointed that after so many
years Dr. Al-Arian's situation remains the same.
The Herald-Sun, Durham, NC
March 24, 2007
Protest held over jailed professor
BUTNER -- An estimated 70 people gathered Saturday near the federal
prison in Butner to demonstrate for the release of former university
professor Sami al-Arian, who admitted in a plea bargain last year
that he conspired to aid individuals associated with Palestinian
The demonstrators received good news and bad news.
First, they were told the 49-year-old al-Arian had just ended a
hunger strike as it entered its third month, severely threatening
his life. He reportedly began taking liquid nutrition on Friday at
the urging of his wife.
Then came the bad news: the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Richmond, Va., apparently declined Friday to overturn a decision
that al-Arian must be held in contempt for refusing to testify
against other alleged terrorists. The contempt citation could add 18
months to his prison term, keeping him locked up well beyond his
projected release date next month.
Al-Arian taught computer science at the University of South Florida
in Tampa until he was charged with being a leader of Palestinian
Islamic Jihad, which the United States calls a terrorist
He had a six-month trial in 2005 that ended with acquittal on some
counts and a hung jury on others.
Then, he admitted in an April 2006 plea bargain that he conspired to
help people connected to the alleged Palestinian terrorist group. He
received a prison sentence of nearly five years, with credit for
time already served.
His supporters contend the plea deal exempted al-Arian from
testifying against others.
So why is the government now holding him in contempt for not
testifying, they asked Saturday.
According to the supporters and demonstrators, al-Arian also was
promised in his plea that he would be deported from the U.S.
"I think the government reneged on him," said Khalila Sabra,
director of the N.C. Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.
"He was appalled that his plea bargain would be violated," she
added. "That's why he decided to go on a fast. He feels that a life
without freedom is not life."
Al-Arian, who is of Palestinian descent, came to the United States
in 1975 and lived with his wife Nahla and five American-born
children until his arrest.
Sabra said al-Arian had become "skin and bones" during his 60-day
"If his wife had not literally begged him to stop fasting, he would
have taken it to the death," she said. "He's already witnessed the
death of his career. Financially, he's ruined. The decent thing is
just to release him [from prison] and let him leave the country."
Sabra said she supported the Constitution and believed in it.
"But when the rules of law are violated, I think people have to
stand up and challenge it," she said. "What's being done to Dr. al-
Arian is not democracy."
Margaret Misch, a facilitator for the Orange County Bill of Rights
Defense Committee, agreed with that assessment.
She said she participated in Saturday's demonstration because it
was "a human rights issue."
"This person has been tortured," Misch said of al-Arian.
"He's already given up his citizenship," she
contended. "Everything's gone for him now. The decent thing is to
let him go."
Misch said she would consider Saturday's event a success if it led
to a quick release from prison and deportation for al-Arian.
"But that's probably not possible," she said. "So the next best
thing is to let people know how the United States government is
infringing on people's rights. To me, that's scary."
The News & Observer
Mar 25, 2007
Vigil staged for Palestinian scholar
BUTNER - About 60 people held a two-hour vigil beside Interstate 85
on Saturday for an imprisoned former college professor accused of
conspiring with Palestinian terrorists.
Sami al-Arian is being held at the Federal Medical Facility near
Butner for refusing to testify in a terrorism-related case before a
Virginia grand jury. On Jan. 22, he began a hunger strike to protest
his incarceration beyond the duration of his sentence.
After he collapsed Feb. 13, the Federal Bureau of Prisons
transferred al-Arian to Butner from a prison in Virginia.
Al-Arian's wife, Nahla al-Arian, said her diabetic husband ended the
hunger strike Friday, at his family's urging, and tried taking
liquid nutrients. In his weakened condition, he was having
difficulty digesting them, she said.
"The most important thing is [that] his psychological state is
healthy and fine," she said.
Khalila Sabra, director of the N.C. Muslim American Society Freedom
Foundation, said, "He's experiencing a living death. ... Until he's
free, none of us are really free."
The Muslim foundation helped organize Saturday's demonstration,
along with the Durham and Orange county chapters of the Bill of
Rights Defense Committee, N.C. Stop Torture Now and al-Arian's
Two of al-Arian's five children also took part in the protest, along
with four other supporters from their hometown of Tampa, Fla.
Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, al-Arian, 49, grew up in
Cairo, came to the United States as a student in 1975 and earned
master's and doctorate degrees at N.C. State University in the
1980s. In 1986, he joined the faculty at the University of South
Florida as a computer-science professor.
In February 2003, he was arrested in Tampa and charged with aiding
Palestinian terrorists. At that time, the university fired him.
In December 2005, a jury acquitted al-Arian of eight charges and
deadlocked on nine others. In May, he signed an agreement in which
he pleaded guilty to aiding the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the
U.S. government regards as a terrorist organization. The agreement
also said that al-Arian would be deported after serving an 18-month
With time already served, al-Arian's sentence is up in April. But it
has been extended indefinitely on a charge of civil contempt after
he refused to testify in an investigation of Islamic charities in
"Al-Arian is in limbo," said Jerry Markatos, a demonstrator from
Chatham County. "This is a notorious case internationally."
Others said their protest was about more than al-Arian.
Sabra said al-Arian is not a criminal, but "part of a political
agenda" of a U.S. government "intolerant of the rights of Muslims,
intolerant of the reasonable rejection of their Israeli agenda."
Demonstrators, some in prison-style orange jumpsuits, stood along a
road facing I-85 at exit 189. They brought a tall "Leaning Lady
Liberty" figure proclaiming "Bush Free Dr. Sami," along with signs
calling for al-Arian's release and for support of Palestinians.
Passing motorists occasionally blew their horns, but it was
impossible to tell whether in support or mockery. The morning's only
incident was the arrival of several Highway Patrolmen warning
protesters to stay behind the fence, after several climbed into the
I-85 right-of-way to photograph the demonstration.
Organizer Margaret Misch of the Orange County Bill of Rights Defense
group said the main goal was to gain attention for al-Arian's case.
"It's of concern the media doesn't pick up this cross," Misch
said. "This is, to me, not just Sami, it's the concern we have for
Protester Roger Ehrlich of Cary said his grandfather was a prominent
Zionist in Austria who protested anti-Semitic policies after the
Nazi occupation. The grandfather, Jacob, was arrested and died in
the Dachau concentration camp, Ehrlich said.
"I see real parallels here," he said.
Nahla al-Arian said the event was heartening.
"It gives me hope the situation will change, injustice will end,"
she said. "I see in this place the conscience of America."