April 2, 2008 — The Department of Justice under the Bush administration continues to manipulate the legal system to keep Dr. Sami Al-Arian imprisoned indefinitely.
Sami Al-Arian, a computer engineering professor from Tampa, Florida, was arrested on charges of supporting a designated terrorist organization in 2003. Al-Arian proclaimed his innocence and maintained the charges were purely political. Almost three years later, a federal jury reached that same conclusion. Al-Arian was acquitted of the most serious charges against him following a six-month trial in 2005. The jury voted 10 to 2 for acquittal on the remaining charges. Dr. Al-Arian, to end his legal nightmare, then signed a plea bargain with the government that stated he would be released and deported as soon as possible. During the negotiations for the plea bargain, the government agreed to a stipulation by Dr. Al-Arian that he would not be called upon to testify in any other trial. The prosecutors accordingly removed the cooperation clause that is standard in plea agreements in the Middle District of Florida.
In total defiance of this agreement, a federal prosecutor from Virginia, Gordon Kromberg, has been trying for two years to force Al-Arian to testify before grand juries in an unrelated case. A judge announced on March 3rd, only weeks before Al-Arian’s scheduled release date, that he would be summoned before a third grand jury. While Virginia prosecutors did not deny the understanding of no-cooperation, they claimed that the absence of an explicit clause exempting Dr. Al-Arian from testimony allowed them to continue trying to force his testimony. Dr. Al-Arian, who is diabetic, began a hunger strike on March 3rd, his third since he his arrest five years ago, to protest this continued government harassment. He has since lost more than 30 pounds and has grown considerably weaker. Al-Arian’s hunger strike is his last recourse against the Bush administration’s manipulation of the grand jury system to convict him.
The true motives of the prosecutor in this case are clear: U.S. Attorney Kromberg has made outrageously bigoted statements against Muslims: Melva Underbakke, “The Ordeal of Dr. Sami Al-Arian: Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg Displays Anti-Arab, Anti-Muslim Bias,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2007: 30-32.
Kromberg has publicly stated that he believes in punishing by “other means” those he thinks are guilty but who were acquitted in court. He successfully engineered the perjury conviction of Sabri ben Kahla, another American Muslim acquitted of terrorism charges who now faces ten years in prison.
This is the Catch-22 of Sami Al-Arian: either he testifies and is charged and sentenced with perjury, or he refuses to testify and is found in criminal contempt. On March 20th, Dr. Al-Arian was brought before the third grand jury, where he refused to testify. Any day now, he may be charged and tried for criminal contempt and sentenced to a minimum of five years.
This case is a travesty of the American justice system. To raise your voice against this, please sign the petition in support of Dr. Al-Arian (petition.freesaminow.com). For a summary of this case, please watch the newly-made gripping YouTube video based on the critically-acclaimed documentary USA vs. Al-Arian at: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPdpxxBR2jk>.
For more information, visit <www.freesaminow.com>.