Thursday, 5 April 2007

The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian - Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner

April 5, 2007 at 07:59:12

The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian - Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner

by Stephen Lendman Page 1 of 6 page(s)

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The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian - Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner - by Stephen Lendman

Sami Al-Arian is one of many dozens, likely hundreds, of political prisoners in the US today but is noteworthy because of his high-profile status and as an especially egregious example of persecution and injustice in post-9/11 America with its climate of state-induced fear and resulting repression with special targeting of Latino immigrants and all Muslims characterized as "Islamofascists" because of their faith and ethnicity. One of them is Dr. Sami Al-Arian - Palestinian refugee, scholar, academic, community leader, civic activist and advocate for freedom and justice for his people imprisoned since February, 2003 on trumped up charges explained below even after a jury exonerated him on eight of the false 17 charges against him, all the ones relating to violence and terrorism, and remained deadlocked 10 - 2 in favor of acquittal on the other nine. More on this below.

Al-Arian is a Kuwaiti-born son of Palestinian refugees forced to flee Palestine during the 1948-49 Nakba catastrophe when the new state of Israel's "War of Independence" ethnically cleansed and willfully slaughtered 800,000 Palestinians, desecrated their sacred holy sites, and seized their lands. The final master Plan D (Dalet) was for a war without mercy against defenseless people in which unspeakable atrocities were committed while destroying 531 Palestinian villages, 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, thousands of homes and vast amounts of crops. Al-Arian's parents were lucky to escape the carnage and destruction alive.

Al-Arian came to the US in 1975, was denied citizenship, and taught computer science as a distinguished professor at the University of South Florida (USF) from 1986 until the worst of his ordeal began in February, 2003. It was because of his public, passionate and effective advocacy for human and civil rights and the liberation of his people long oppressed for six decades.

Al-Arian is a man of great distinction. He's a devout Palestinian Muslim, imam of the Islamic Community of Tampa, and a respected and admired man of principle who helped empower the Muslim community through his dedicated hard work and personal relationships with other civic, political and religious leaders in Florida and across the country in spite of having to do it in a post-9/11 environment when all Muslims became suspect and were viewed as possible "terrorists."

Post-9/11, USF president Judy Genshaft consorted with Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspending Al-Arian on September 28 with pay on phony grounds of campus safety. She then tried firing him falsely claiming he supported terrorists and damaged the university's reputation even though he was a respected award-winning tenured professor guilty of no crime but his faith, ethnicity and courageous activism encouraging other Muslim Americans to act likewise. Earlier in August, 1996, USF placed Al-Arian on paid leave pending the outcome of a FBI investigation into whether organizations he was involved with fronted for terrorist groups allowing him to resume teaching two years later when it uncovered nothing.

Days before his arrest, indictment and imprisonment in February, 2003, sensing what was to come after months of rumors, Al-Arian wrote: "I am crucified today because of who I am: a stateless Palestinian, an Arab, a Muslim and an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights, but more a persistent defender for civil and constitutional rights on the home front." This was from a man Newsweek magazine called the premier civil rights activist in America for his efforts to repeal the use of secret evidence that became HR 2121 that only got as far in the 109th Congress as a favorable vote in the House Judiciary Committee, and it's now up to the 110th Congress to take further action.

Earlier, Al-Arian cofounded the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, a local organization opposing unconstitutional use of secret evidence and other civil rights violations as well as slanderous media attacks against Muslims and Arabs. He also cofounded the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, the nation's leading organization challenging the use of secret evidence serving as its first president in 2000. Because of his efforts, Al-Arian advised members of Congress and was invited to briefing meetings at the White House personally meeting Presidents Clinton and Bush.

Genshaft initially failed to remove him but acted summarily on February 26, 2003, a week after Al-Arian was arrested and indicted on charges from which no conviction later resulted. Genshaft then announced he was fired because his (entirely legal) non-academic activities and indictment conflicted with university interests meaning Genshaft sacrificed her integrity to serve the interests of the Bush administration's imperialist Global War on Terrorism directed against all Muslims unfairly targeted.

The Free Sami web site details the timeline ordeal he went through early on.

-- He endured 11 years of FBI investigations, half a million phone wiretaps, searches and other harassment costing many tens of millions of dollars for his political activism and support of civil rights. During his trial, the government alleged he was connected to Islamic groups designated "terrorist" organizations meaning they supported freedom and justice for Palestinians and others and that Al-Arian advocated effectively for them.

-- Investigations culminated on February 20, 2003. His family watched in horror as FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers stormed his home at 5:00 AM guns drawn menacingly. They arrested him and three others separately on charges of supporting terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, giving material support to an outlawed group, extortion, perjury and other offenses later proved spurious in court. He was detained at a local jail where he went on a hunger strike to protest his politically-motivated incarceration.

The charges against Al-Arian falsely alleged he supported organizations claimed to be fronts for Palestinian Islamic Jihad on a US "terrorist" watch list. They were also made against two other organizations he cofounded - the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) involved in raising awareness of the plight of Palestinians and World Islamic Studies Enterprise think tank (WISE) affiliated with USF, a research and academic enterprise promoting dialogue between Muslims and the West. Also cited was the Islamic Academy of Florida Al-Arian also founded that's one of the nation's top full-time Islamic schools with over 300 students from preschool through high school. These organizations have nothing to do with violence or terrorism. In fact, two years earlier, federal immigration Judge Kevin R. McHugh ruled "there is no evidence before the Court that demonstrates (WISE and ICP were) front(s) for the (Islamic Jihad). To the contrary, there is evidence in the record to support the conclusion that WISE was a reputable and scholarly research center and the ICP was highly regarded."

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is as well which Al-Arian helped establish in 1981 and now is the largest grass roots Muslim organization in America contributing "to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large....representing Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations."

-- USF President Judy Genshaft ignored Al-Arian's impeccable credentials and remarkable record of community service and achievements disgracefully firing him on February 27, 2003 acting as a stooge for the Bush administration.

-- At his bail hearing on March 20 lasting four days, the government provided no evidence, no witnesses, and failed to show Al-Arian and his co-defendants were flight risks or threats to national security. Still, he and defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh were denied bail. The others got it.

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I am a 72 year old, retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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