Brief Background of the Case
Statement to Supporters
Click Here>>Singing for Liberty
USA vs Al-Arian
National Liberty Fund (NLF)

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Case Background in Brief

TBCJP LogoTampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace

www.FreeSamiAlArian.com

Background on the Case


of Dr. Sami Al-Arian

Washington, DC - February 2013


On Feb. 20, 2003, former Attorney General John Ashcroft declared in a nationally televised news conference, carried on all major media outlets, that Dr. Al-Arian was one of the most dangerous people in the world.

Based on these assertions, Dr. Al-Arian was held in solitary confinement for 43 months during and after his trial, despite the fact that he had never waived his right to a speedy trial. Amnesty International protested the conditions of his detention, calling them "gratuitously punitive."

 

No Guilty Verdicts


On Dec. 6, 2005, a Florida jury acquitted Dr. Al-Arian on eight counts, and deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal on the remaining nine counts, leading Time magazine to declare the case "one of the Justice Department's most embarrassing legal setbacks since 9/11."


While the government presented 80 witnesses including 21 from Israel, Dr. Al-Arian rested his case without calling a single witness basing his defense on the first amendment. Indeed, much of the government's evidence presented to the jury during the six-month trial were speeches Dr. Al-Arian delivered, lectures he presented, articles he wrote, magazines he edited, books he owned, conferences he convened, rallies he attended, interviews he gave, news he heard, and websites he never even accessed.


In fact, several websites, presented to the jury as evidence, were created by anonymous individuals, after his arrest, while he was awaiting trial in solitary confinement in a federal prison. It was therefore no surprise that, with almost 100 counts between all defendants, the jury did not return a single guilty verdict on any count. Two other defendants were totally acquitted on all counts.

 

A Plea Deal to End Persecution


In April 2006, in an effort to spare his family another long, financially draining, and excruciating trial, Dr. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to violating a 1995 presidential executive order, by providing immigration services in the 1990s to persons associated with the PIJ, a Palestinian organization listed on the U.S. forbidden organizations (terrorist) list. In return, he agreed to immediate deportation from the U.S. despite more than three decades residing in the country. The details of the plea deal illustrated the true nature of the political persecution of this case.


The services admitted in the plea deal were: 1) hiring a lawyer for his brother-in-law during his immigration battle in the late 1990s; 2) sponsoring a Palestinian historian in 1994 to conduct research in the U.S.; and 3) withholding information from a U.S. journalist during a 1995 interview. There was no evidence or admission in the plea deal that showed any illegal financial transactions or material support.  Although Dr. Al-Arian was promised a prompt release in exchange for his plea, the U.S. government later admitted that, at the time the plea deal was signed in 2006, federal prosecutors were secretly preparing to call Dr. Al-Arian before a grand jury in Virginia, in a sign of their complete disregard for the overarching purpose of the plea agreement, which was to end any and all business between Dr. Al-Arian and the U.S. government.

 

Prosecutorial Trap


In what many observers believed was an attempt to seek retribution for the colossal defeat of the government's case in Florida, Dr. Al-Arian was called to testify before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) in Alexandria three times between the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2008. The call to the grand jury was a classic prosecutorial trap in which agreeing to testify would result in a charge of perjury, while a refusal to testify would result in a charge of contempt of court. When Dr. Al-Arian refused to testify, invoking his right under the plea deal, he was held for over a year on civil contempt charges. In June 2008, he was charged with criminal contempt.


After five and a half years in prison, most of which was served under deplorable conditions in solitary confinement, and during which Dr. Al-Arian underwent three hunger-strikes that lasted several months requiring hospitalization, Dr. Al-Arian was released in September 2008 under house arrest, where he has spent the last 25 months awaiting the outcome of the case.


In its March 2009 filing, the government made several admissions regarding the plea deal, namely, they affirmed its essence of non-cooperation, but still argued that it should not be taken into account.


Moreover,the EDVA prosecutors (as admitted in the government filing) began the process to compel Dr. Al-Arian's testimony at the same time the DOJ was negotiating with his attorneys. This conduct prompted Judge Leonie Brinkema of the EDVA, in a Feb. 2009 hearing, to call into question the DOJ's integrity, stating "I think the integrity of the Justice Department and the integrity of the criminal justice plea bargaining process is too significant to just let it die on the vine given the nature of the record before this Court."


In an earlier hearing held in Tampa, Florida in Nov. 2006, Florida prosecutor Terry Zitek, stated in no uncertain terms that the cooperation clause was deliberately removed: "It's not there, and we're [the government] not...complaining that the defendant Al-Arian has refused to cooperate."


Furthermore,lead government prosecutor Gordon Kromberg of the EDVA, conceded in a court hearing on Feb. 5, 2009, that the government had in fact removed the cooperation clause from the plea bargain upon the insistence of Dr. Al-Arian. But Mr. Kromberg tried to argue that the EDVA was not bound by the terms of the agreement. However, Judge Brinkema pointed out that the plea agreement was concluded with the DOJ as a whole, and that the DOJ could not be allowed to "compartmentalize itself," and that the understanding of the plea agreement is indeed "at the heart of the case."


This undisputed fact raised a number of questions about the government's conduct in the case, including: Why would the Florida prosecutors remove the cooperation clause from the plea agreement unless there was a clear promise that Dr. Al-Arian would not be compelled to cooperate or testify? Dr. Al-Arian's then attorneys submitted affidavits saying that cooperation with the government was non-negotiable.

(Click here for the first declaration and here for the second by Dr. Al-Arian's attorneys.)

After the government defied the judge three times by refusing to provide information regarding the plea negotiations, Judge Brinkema ruled in March 2009 in favor of the defense request to file a motion to dismiss the charges against Dr. Al-Arian. Her decision at the time had followed the new revelation that the Florida prosecutors were opposed to the efforts by the Virginia prosecutors to call Dr. Al-Arian to testify. After the parties briefed the court in April 2009, Judge Brinkema issued an order stating that she would rule in the future without further hearings. The new motion for a new hearing by the government is to force the judge to rule on the pending dismissal motion.

 

The Persecution of Dr. Al-Arian on Film


In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers released a documentary film entitled USA vs. Al-Arian. The award-winning film chronicles the story of Dr. Al-Arian and his family

during and after his Florida trial, illustrating the political nature of his prosecution and the state of the U.S. justice system under the Patriot Act. Since 2003, Dr. Al-Arian's case has attracted the interest of major civil liberties  and human rights organizations in the U.S. and around the world. Peter Erlinder, a law professor, and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, said: "The prosecution of Dr. Al-Arian was a blatant attempt to silence political speech and dissent in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. The nature of the political persecution of this case has been demonstrated throughout all its aspects, not only during the trial and the never-ending right-wing media onslaught, but also after the stunning defeat of the government in 2005, and its ill-advised abuse of the grand jury system thereafter."

 

Striving for Justice


In August 2008, the late Howard Zinn declared: "I thought that [Dr. Al-Arian's case] was an outrageous violation of human rights, both from a constitutional point of view and as a simple test of justice." Moreover,


Friends of Human Rights in front of the DOJ


Dr. Mel Underbakke of Friends of Human Rights, who has traveled the country screening the documentary and educating the public about the dangers of the Patriot Act, said: "The unjust persecution of Dr. Al-Arian should concern all Americans. History has taught us that when the rights of the minority are violated by the government for political purposes, then the rights of all Americans would be eroded. That's why thousands of civil libertarians and human rights activists in the U.S. and around the world, have been mortified by the injustice suffered by Dr. Al-Arian and his family and have rallied in their defense."

When asked about how her father was doing during his house arrest, Laila Al-Arian, a journalist, said: "Our family is very grateful to have been with him since his release. He's been a guiding influence in our lives. He is also most appreciative of the tremendous support he's been receiving nationwide and around the world."

 

A Voice for Freedom and Dialogue


Dr. Al-Arian reiterated his strong belief in the importance of dialogue and education in the only public speech he has given since his release on home confinement, delivered in June 2009 through Skype to the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression in Norway.


He said: "Despite my imprisonment and experience, my faith in dialogue and commitment to freedom of expression, will never waiver. It's been my life long passion. This experience taught us that when the American people are educated and empowered with truth, they respond positively and display a sense of fairness. I firmly believe that through education and civil engagement people change. Little by little they will understand the plight of the Palestinians and the importance of defending civil liberties and human rights. Increasingly, people realize that no democracy can survive at the altar of sacrificing free speech or dissent."

He continued: " Our charge today is to pledge to defend the rights of our most vulnerable members of our world community: the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience around the world, those who are under occupation or under siege, the millions terrorized by dictators and warlords, the poor and the sick, the uneducated and the exploited, the children, the abused women, and the elderly. Each one of these classes of people needs a voice and an advocate. They need to gain their freedom to realize a life of dignity and peace. So whether we recognize it or not, we are at the forefront of this struggle for their freedom.  Let your collective conscience speak on their behalf." He then concluded: "One cannot achieve peace without realizing justice, realize justice without seeking out the truth, seek out the truth without practicing freedom. So living and thinking free is the root of achieving peace in our world."


End.

For more information and updates see: www.freesamialarian.com

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

SITE SEARCH

SPOTLIGHT

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
9/1/2002

Biography---

UFF Summary: Al-Arian and USF

Poetry

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
Women
Had a spirit
As dazzling as
The garden of
Eden
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
Injustice
An overwhelming feeling
Of bitterness
Emptiness
Hopelessness
Helplessness
Sadness
Madness
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