Friday, September 05, 2008

Dr Sami Al-Arian’s long-delayed freedom

Nicole Colson reports on a proud victory for the family of witch-hunt victim Dr. Sami Al-Arian.

Sami Al-ArianSami Al-Arian

IN A long-overdue victory, Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian was released on bail September 2 and reunited with members of his family for the first time since his arrest in early 2003.

“[I]t feels very unbelievable and surreal that he’s finally with us after more than five-and-a-half years of being apart and of only being able to see him behind glass. It’s breathtaking, really,” his daughter, Laila Al-Arian, described her feelings to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.

“And the whole time, we–me and my siblings–just kept telling each other, ‘Is this a dream? Is this real?’ We couldn’t believe it. And even when we first heard the news, we were a bit skeptical, because we’ve been in this situation so many times, where we thought my father would finally be released, and he wouldn’t. So we kind of held back our happiness and joy until he was finally with us.”

Sami Al-Arian is the former University of South Florida professor who has been the victim of an ongoing government witch-hunt since the Bush administration, in the days following the September 11 attacks, accused him of using an Islamic think tank and a Muslim school and charity as a cover for raising funds to finance “terrorism” through the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Though then-Attorney General John Ashcroft held up Al-Arian’s arrest as an essential part of the “war on terror” here at home, after a six-month trial costing more than $50 million, a Florida jury in 2006 refused to find Al-Arian guilty of a single count of the 17 charges against him.

What you can do

Visit the Free Sami Al-Arian Web site to get regular updates about his case and learn more about what you can do to protest the government’s continued persecution of Dr. Al-Arian.

You can send donations to help the Al-Arian family defray the costs of more than five years of legal defense to: Liberty Defense Fund, P.O. Box 1211, 24525 E. Welches Road, Welches, OR 97067.

The documentary film USA v. Al-Arian can be viewed on the Internet at the LinkTV Web site.

Facing the prospect of a lengthy and costly retrial, not to mention further separation from his wife and children, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of the least-serious charge against him in exchange for what was supposed to be a minor additional sentence and voluntary deportation.

Instead, before his scheduled release date, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg had Al-Arian moved to Virginia to try to compel his testimony in an unrelated investigation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)–despite an explicit agreement with Florida prosecutors, recorded in court transcripts, that Al-Arian would be exempt from all future testimony.

Because of his continued refusal to testify, Al-Arian has had his prison stay extended first with civil, and then criminal contempt charges. But according to his defense lawyers and family, the government’s request of his testimony is nothing more than a trap–designed to keep Al-Arian imprisoned indefinitely on contempt charges if he refuses to testify, or allow government prosecutors a reason to charge him with perjury if he were to testify.

As Laila Al-Arian noted on Democracy Now, “[W]hat we’ve learned along the way [about Gordon Kromberg]…is that he’s not really interested in the truth. What he’s interested in really is retrying the case that the government lost so badly in Florida.”

Continued . . .

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