Rozalinda — Sami Al Arian still in indefinite detention

Topic(s): "War on Terror" | Comments Off on Rozalinda — Sami Al Arian still in indefinite detention

Dear Friends
You may be familiar with ther case of Sami Al Arian — a former colleague, faculty at the University of South Florida. He remains in indefinite detention even though he was found not guilty of all terrorism charges brought against him. His situation is deteriorating. He has been on hunger strike for 24 days — over one hundred people have joined him in a rolling hunger strike. If you would like to support Sami in this way, you can select one day in which you would be willing to fast in solidarity, and send an email to
Mel Underbakke
Mel has been, for the past three years, the main engine behind the growing support effort in Tampa and nationwide.
Below, a recent interview about the case of Dr Al-Arian, a link to a documentary soon to be released.
Road Map to Despotism
11 February 2007
Editor’s note: Despite spending an estimated $80 million, the government was
unable to prove that Dr. Sami Al-Arian was a terrorist, yet he remains in prison
and his sentence will likely be extended. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Chris Hedges warns that the abusive imprisonment of this nonviolent Palestinian
dissenter does not bode well for the rest of us.
Dr. Sami Al-Arian, photo courtesy www.usamotalarian.no
Professor Sami Al-Arian, whose persecution and show trial are parts of a
long string of egregious acts of injustice perpetrated by the Bush
administration, has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 22 to protest the
prolongation of his imprisonment.
Al-Arian’s travels through the halls of American justice, and now the
subterranean corridors of the nation’s Stygian prison system, reads like a
bad rip-off of Kafka. Al-Arian was acquitted on eight of the 17 counts against
him by a Florida jury, which deadlocked on the rest. He agreed to plead
guilty to one of the remaining charges four months later in exchange
for being released and deported. The judge gave Al-Arian as much prison
time as possible under a plea deal—57 months at his sentencing. He was set
to be released this April, something that now appears unlikely.
The trial was a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration’s drive to turn
the American judicial system into kangaroo courts. Over the six-month trial
a parade of 80 witnesses, including 21 from Israel, attempted to brand
the Florida professor as a terrorist. The government submitted thousands of
documents, phone interceptions and physical surveillance culled from 12
years of investigations. The trial cost taxpayers an estimated $80 million.
The 94 charges against Al-Arian and his co-defendants resulted in no
convictions. But because Al-Arian has twice refused to testify before a grand
jury in Virginia in a case involving a Muslim think tank, he has now been
charged with contempt of court. The date of his release could be extended
by as much as 18 months.
Al-Arian, who is a diabetic, began a hunger strike in response.
“I believe that freedom and human dignity are more precious than life
itself,” he said in a telephone interview from Northern Neck Regional Jail
in Warsaw, Va. “In, essence I am taking a principled stand that I am willing
to endure whatever it takes to win my freedom.
“I am still OK,” he said. “I have lost 26 pounds by today. It’s definitely not
easy, but I am determined to continue. It’s not a decision you make
haphazardly or something that you take lightly. In the end, you have to make
difficult decisions because of the larger cause. I drink four large cups of
water a day, about 12 ounces each.”
Dr. Al-Arian said he will remain on a hunger strike until the government
ends its campaign against him and allows him to return to his wife and
The case and continued harassment sets a dangerous precedent for American
Muslims, who since 9/11 have been monitored, detained and deported in
large numbers. But it bodes ill for the rest of us as well. The new legislation
suspending habeas corpus and creating the possibility of legally stripping
U.S. citizens of their right to a fair and timely trial is a taste of what awaits us
all should we enter a period of instability or national crisis. In many ways
the assault against Al-Arian is an assault against the judicial system that lies
like a barrier between us and despotism.
“Much of the government’s evidence against me were speeches I gave,
lectures I presented, articles I wrote, magazines I edited, books I owned,
conferences I convened, rallies I attended, interviews I conducted, news I
heard and websites no one accessed,” he said. “It was reminiscent of
the thought crime of Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ The scary part was not
that these were offered into evidence, but that a federal judge admitted
them. That’s why I am so proud of the jury, who acted as the free people that
they were and saw through Big Brother’s tactics.
“I’ve been to nine prisons in nine months,” he explained. “I spent the first
23 months in Coleman Federal Penitentiary, where the conditions were
Guantanamo-plus, that is they were like those of the detainees in
Guantanamo Bay ‘plus’ one phone call a month and visits with my family
behind glass. I was in a nine-foot-by-eight-foot cell, where I was held under
23-hour lockdown. During the first few months, they wouldn’t even allow
me to exercise unless I was strip-searched, which I refused to submit to,
so I was inside 24 hours. During the first month, I was allowed only one
15-minute phone call, and for six months after that I was not allowed to make
any calls.
“I was shackled and handcuffed every single time I left my cell for any
reason,” he said. “When I needed to take my legal papers for meetings with
my attorney, the guards would not carry them for me, even though they
did for other prisoners. Though I was shackled, they forced me to carry them
on my back, as I was bent over. I had to walk like that for half a mile. I
should also mention the use of fire alarms in trying to disrupt life. In the
Special Housing Unit [SHU], a punitive section of the prison where I was the
only pretrial detainee, alarms and emergency sirens would go off 15 to 20
times every single day, at 12 a.m., 2 p.m., any time of the day. It was a
deafening noise that would continue for five to 10 minutes. It was clearly
deliberate. In the SHU, commissary was almost nonexistent. All they offered
was potato chips, whereas in the general compound everything was available.
The SHU was designed for disciplinary purposes, not for housing a pretrial
“Not only did they place me in the SHU, but they imposed additional
restrictions on me,” he went on. “For instance, everybody else was granted
contact visits, while I had to see my family behind glass. They also insisted on
strip-searching me before and after these behind-the-glass visits. In May
2003, my wife drove two hours to see me, but they denied her the visit when
I would not submit to a strip search.”
Al-Arian is a Palestinian. The injustice meted out to him in America is writ
large in the Middle East. He has no passport, no home, no country. He must
live on the charity of others, stateless, as most Palestinians are, and
without the rights of the citizens around him. He once thought America
would be his home. He was, before this charade, in the process of gaining
citizenship. All this is over. In George Bush’s America there is no place
for activists or dissidents. And when they finish with those on the margins
of our society they will turn, if we let them, on the rest of us.
Chris Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a
Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and the Anschutz Distinguished
Fellow at Princeton University. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign
correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.
Hedges, who has reported from more than 50 countries, worked for The
Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News
and The New York Times, where he spent fifteen years.
Web link:
Dear Friend of Human Rights:
Dr. Sami Al Arian has been on a hunger strike now for 14 days. He wants
the U.S. Justice Department to stop extending his imprisonment through
what could be endless contempt of court findings. In support of his
effort the Friends of Human Rights (FHR) will be sending a delegation
to Washington on February 14 to 15. FHR will hold a press conference
together with representatives of several national organizations, and
will organize visits to members of the House and Senate Judiciary
For some time FHR has been trying to schedule meetings with the chairs
of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Sen. Patrick Leahy and
Rep. John Conyers. Would you please send e-mails to them, requesting
that they meet with Friends of Human Rights? The e-mails could be as
simple as this:
Dear Senator Leahy: (or Rep. Conyers)
As a citizen concerned about some practices of the US Justice
Department, especially in the case of Dr. Sami Al Arian, I am asking
that you please schedule a meeting with representatives of Friends of
Human Rights when they come to Washington February 14th and 15th.
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5126
(202) 225-0072 Fax
Senator Patrick Leahy
433 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
And if you would like to write to Sami –
Sami Al-Arian (#19638)
Northern Neck Regional Jail
P.O. Box 1060
Warsaw, VA 22572