Dr. Sami Al-Arian vs Big Brother

American Palestinian Professor Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian, has spent the last five years behind bars although NO jury ever returned a single guilty verdict against him. On March 3, 2008 he began his third hunger strike in Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va. after learning he would face a third grand jury, instead of being released and deported this April.

After loosing fifteen pounds, the diabetic Dr. was moved to Butner Medical Center. I phoned the center [919- 575-3900] on March 14, 2008, seeking a condition update, but only got as far as leaving a voice mail.

I then phoned Melva Underbakke, who was driving to Phoenix to show the documentary USA vs Al-Arian.

Melva informed me, “I have known Sami for fifteen years, we both taught at the University of South Florida. When he was indicted he lost his tenure. We lived a mile from each other and were both on the educational committee of HOPE, a volunteer organization in the community that works to strengthen the community. Sami and I were both on the committee that helped the public schools develop an alternative to out of school suspension by keeping the suspended kids in the school system.

“After 9/11, Sami was instrumental in outreaching to the entire community by inviting the churches and all others to the mosque to express our shared grief and sorrow.

“Sami has won many awards for teaching. He worked to get people out to vote and he lobbied in Washington.

“It’s a big loss to our community–a big loss to our country to loose such a person as Sami.

“Even during his pretrial incarceration the conditions were very harsh. He was always behind a glass; no physical contact was allowed, even for his family. I think maybe once a year they were allowed to be in the same room with him. The last time I saw him was just after his second hunger strike. He was still joking and in good spirits. He was strong and it was a happy visit.

“Sami was always a big believer in the American system. He felt justice would be done. But, I think because this case goes all the way to Washington, and they have been loosing these terror cases, they want to save face and don’t want to give up persecuting Sami.”

Dr. Al-Arian has stated:

“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 challenge the abuses of the PATRIOT Act.”

“A great nation is ultimately defined and judged by its system of justice. When the system is manipulated by the powerful and tolerates abuses against the minorities or the weak members of society, the government not only loses its moral authority and betrays future generations, but will also be condemned by history.”

The diabetic Dr.’s first hunger strike, lasted 140 days, he survived on nutritional liquids and lost 45 pounds. In 2007, he went on a two month hunger strike, drank only water and lost 55 pounds. His third hunger strike began March 3, 2008 and he is refusing fluids.

The documentary USA vs Al-Arian that Melva is taking around the country, details “the absurdity of the show trial held in Florida and the hollowness of the government’s case against Al-Arian. When the film was awarded Best Nordic Documentary at the Nordic Panorama in Finland the jury wrote: ‘The film shows precisely how a common man becomes a victim of the situation in the contemporary world, where the Big Brother is watching you even when you’re ordering pizza.'”

The film is also “a close portrait of an Arab-American family facing terrorism charges leveled by the U.S. Government. The film shows a personal story of a family living in a society where fear of terrorism has resulted in increasing stigmatization and discrimination against Muslims. For years, Nahla Al-Arian and her children have been fighting to prove the innocence of husband and father Sami, a Palestinian refugee, university professor and civil rights activist, who has lived in the USA for more than thirty years. In 2003, Sami Al-Arian was accused of giving material support to a terrorist organization and held in solitary confinement for over three years. His six-month trial ended without a single guilty verdict. The failure to convict Dr. Al-Arian was seen as a stinging rebuke for the federal government. While the Bush administration considered this a landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism, Sami Al-Arian claims he has been targeted in an attempt to silence his political views. Because the jury hung on some of the counts, however, Dr. Al-Arian remained in jail as the prosecution threatened to retry him. In May 2006, he agreed to a plea bargain with the US Government in order to put an end to the ordeal and to be reunited with his family. A federal judge sentenced him to 57 months in prison and subsequent deportation… The case of Sami Al-Arian is one of the first major tests of the USA Patriot Act, a controversial law passed hastily after September 11, 2001.”

So far the American taxpayer has provided approximately $50 million dollars to persecute Dr. Al-Arian. “The government has called 80 witnesses and subjected the jury to hundreds of hours of often absurd phone transcriptions and recordings made over a 10-year period, which the jury dismissed as “gossip.” Of the 17 charges against Al-Arian—including “conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad”—the jury acquitted him of eight and was hung on the rest. The jurors disagreed on the remaining charges, with 10 of the 12 jurors favoring his full acquittal… Following the acquittal, a disaster for the government, especially because then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had announced the indictment, prosecutors threatened to retry Al-Arian. The Palestinian professor, under duress, accepted a plea bargain agreement that would spare him a second trial, saying in his agreement that he had helped people associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad with immigration matters. It was a tepid charge given the high profile of the case.”


USA vs Al-Arian
Contact Melva Underbakke to schedule a screening in your city.
Call (813) 215-3403
E-mail: ten.knilhtraenull@uavlem

Eileen Fleming is the author of Keep Hope Alive and Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory and the producer of 30 Minutes With Vanunu. Email her at ecumei@gmail.com. Read other articles by Eileen, or visit Eileen's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Shabnam said on March 17th, 2008 at 7:44pm #

    Ms. Fleming:
    Thank you for your humanity to bring Dr. Al-Arian’s case to this site.
    The case of Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian is very sad but it is not unique in American System of justice especially in the era of “war on terror.” Mr. Al-Arian believed he was protected under the US law. However, his case has proven him wrong because he values humanity and can not be salient about the condition of his fellow men, Palestinians, who have been brutalized and forced out of their land by the European settlers.
    It is obvious that Dr. Al-Arian is not neither a terrorist nor a conspirator. If he was, then there could have been rooms for negotiation, like Mujahedin of Iran, MEK, a terrorist organization. Both US and Israel are in contact with MEK. The MEK has a long history of violence: they murdered several Americans during the 1970s; they were involved with the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran; they killed 70 high ranking officials by bombing the Premier’s office and the head office of the Islamic Republic Party in 1981; they helped the Iraqi government violently suppress Shia and Kurdish uprisings during the 1990s. Yet Mr. Jafarzadeh, front man for the MEK is free in the United States, was introduced by the Fox News Network as their independent Iran analyst, who is against Iranian government and the terrorist’s activity of his organization, the MEK, is useful for the US and Israel. Thus, he has enough cards to play the game, not Dr. Al-Arian who has no useful “knowledge” on which to negotiate with.
    He is an academician who tries to inform American public how their tax money supports genocide in Palestine which does not go well with the authorities in Washington.
    Al-Arian was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, after which he was to be deported. During the trial, the government presented evidence that Al-Arian’s think tank, World and Islam Studies Enterprise, received funding from the International Institute of Islamic Thought, based in Herndon, VA.
    The US place many organizations on the terrorist list in order to limit their legitimate political, social and cultural activities to hold a pretext for prosecution of unwanted political activists who expose Palestinian condition to greater audience including Americans. I hope everything goes well for him and they let an innocent person to go free soon and to end the phony “war on terror” which has claimed many victims around the world. We should tell his story to everyone we know and follow his case closely to remember that his case is not limited to him and people like him. It can happen to everyone including Americans.

  2. eileen fleming said on March 18th, 2008 at 6:14am #

    IN SOLIDARITY with all you say!

    The latest bad news I received in an email via AL-AWDA-Florida group

    Re Sami Al Arian

    I talked to Al Arian’s lawyer, Peter Erlander, yesterday. He said that there is no provision in the plea agreement that al Arian would or would not have to testify at other trials. He said that the state originally included such a contract for him to testify at other trials but that Al Arian refused to agree and therefore had it deleted. Thus he is claiming that that is equivalent to including a provision that Al Arian not have to testify. He used the analogy of my signing contract to supply elephants and my refusing because I did not have any elephants and thus having that clause deleted, and then their coming back and saying that I was responsible for supplying elephants.

    However, he is using an analogy from contract law and criminal law is another matter. I did not think to raise this point at the time. I hope that Al Arian does not die because of poor legal advice. But I am not a lawyer.

    Erlander said that he has seen Al Arian earlier and that he was very weak.

    William J. Martin

  3. eileen fleming said on March 18th, 2008 at 6:42am #

    Re: Report on Protest at Butner to Support Professor Sami Al-Arian, March 16; Appeal by Peter Erlinder, Sami’s Attorney

    All persons concerned with loss of human rights in the US,


    Peter Erlinder, Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, MN, Sami Al-Arian’s attorney and friend of more than 10 years, spoke to those 15 assembled at Exit 189 off I-85, one mile from Butner Federal Medical Center, NC, for about 20 minutes on March 16. [One photographer will have photos available soon.] His message of grave concern about the failure of the legal system in the US and stripping of the rights afforded by the US Constitution was to urge everyone to contact the chairs of the judiciary committees immediately to put pressure on the Department of Justice to intervene in case of Al-Arian to force the judge in the 4th District to uphold the US Constitution and the writ of habeas corpus.

    Everyone should call the Judiciary Committee chairs and also their own Congressmen. [Note Watt and Coble of NC sit on the House Judiciary Committee.] Excellent information: http://www.nlg.org/news/index.php?entry=entry080304-111903.

    Call: 202-224-4242 and 202-255-5126. Ask for hearing and/oversight of Judiciary on Sami Al-Arian’s case.

    More info: http://www.freesamialarian.com/home.htm,
    ACLU Link
    http://www.wmitchell.edu/academics/faculty/Erlinder.asp, http://w3.usf.edu/~uff/AlArian/

    Committee information follows.

    Margaret Misch
    Orange County (NC) Bill of Rights Defense Committee

    Patrick J. Leahy
    Majority Staff Director: Bruce Cohen
    Minority Staff Director: Mike O’Neill
    202-224-4242 (telephone)
    202-224-3479 (Fax)

    Edward M. Kennedy

    Arlen Specter

    Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

    Orrin G. Hatch

    Herb Kohl

    Charles E. Grassley

    Dianne Feinstein

    Jon Kyl

    Russell D. Feingold

    Jeff Sessions

    Charles E. Schumer

    Lindsey Graham

    Richard J. Durbin

    John Cornyn

    Benjamin L. Cardin

    Sam Brownback

    Sheldon Whitehouse

    Tom Coburn

    Hon. John Conyers, Jr.

    (D) Michigan, 14th
    Majority Chief of Staff: Perry Apelbaum
    Minority Chief of Staff: Joseph Gibson
    202-255-5126 (telephone)
    202-225-0072 (Fax)

  4. eileen fleming said on March 19th, 2008 at 6:20am #

    From an email from WM/Al-Awada, after i alerted him that i posted his email above:

    In that case, Please post this, which is a direct quote from Peter Erlander which I just received;

    It is not an anology to contract law, it IS contract law. Numerous cases, incluidng SCOTUS, clearly state that the terms of a plea agreement are a contract…but one that has to be interpreted as reasonably understood as the person to whom the government makes the “offer”….because of the unequal bargaining position and the important constitutional issues at stake.

    Peter Erlander