Where Was Sami? (11/10)
Nov. 10, 2003
The hearing regarding Sami al-Arian's conditions of confinement was
held on Friday, November 7 at 1:30 at the Federal Courthouse, the
Honorable Thomas McCoun presiding.
Since September 11, life in the United States has been like we have
all fallen down the rabbit hole, and this was no exception. First of
all, Sami was not allowed to attend! - not even by video hook-up.
His lawyer, Bill Moffitt, pointed out that it was difficult for him
to talk about the conditions of confinement when his client was not
there to answer questions, but he did mention some of the problems.
For example, Dr. Al-Arian is held in the maximum security wing of
the prison, and additionally he is held in the area for further
punishing those who cause trouble in prison. He is in solitary
confinement 23 hours a day, is allowed only non-contact visits with
his immediate family, and no visits with anyone else. Lawyers have
encountered numerous problems attempting to visit him, such as
wearing the wrong kind of undergarment. Even though she was wearing
a suit and offered to remove the undergarment in question, female
defense attorney Linda Moreno was not allowed to Dr. al-Arian. He is
not allowed to call his family, and calls to lawyers must receive
special permission. Why would a person who has not been tried be
treated like this?
And why doesn't the defense have access to all of the evidence? In
particular, Moffitt questioned why the prosecution has not released
evidence which they have had since 1995. The defense has not even
seen the evidence used in the indictment. Does the prosecution plan
to hold back as long as possible, and then release a massive amount
of evidence at the last minute?
Numerous questions were raised, but the outcome of the hearing was
unclear. There are reasons why much of the evidence has not been
released to the defense, but these reasons were unclear. There are
reasons why Dr. Al-Arian is being housed with the worst of the worst
at a federal prison 70 miles from Tampa, but these reasons were
unclear. (Not to worry. The judge said that the Federal prison at
Coleman is actually better than the Orient Road jail!) Someone
ordered that Dr. al-Arian be held in Coleman rather than Tampa, but
who that person was is unclear.
As the hearing progressed, the feeling I got was that we had all
joined Alice down the rabbit hole, and we have been there so long
that everything seems normal to us. But now Bill Moffitt and Linda
Moreno have come in from another planet, and they are the only ones
who can see the reality and the absurdity of the situation. You want
to laugh a lot, except that the situation is so serious.