By James O'Donnell
(Laura and George W. Bush with Dr. Sami Al-Arian and friends in 2000)
Two nights ago, Code Pink's “Hurricane” Liz and I attended a panel discussion regarding the plight of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, one of the victims, along with the U.S. Constitution, of America's Global War on Terrorism.
If you haven't heard of Dr. Al-Arian, it might edify you to learn that most of the world considers him a bona fide POLITICAL PRISONER in a system run amok. Like Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield (later compensated to the tune of millions of dollars), Dr. Al-Arian has been swept up by a national security apparatus that evokes Arthur Miller's “The Crucible” more than, say, “Dragnet.”
But many people, in and outside of America, have been following Dr. Al-Arian's case intently... and increasingly with alarm (concerned not just for Sami Al-Arian, but also for America's future).
As one of the panelists noted, “This is a struggle that goes to the heart of our national existence.”
(Contrary to the fearmongering caricature of those of us who are concerned about the civil liberties of ALL the residents of our country, this was a very patriotic gathering, full of glowing references to American heroes like Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Frederick Douglas.)
The following is a brief rundown of the nightmare Dr. Al-Arian has been living:
A computer science professor in Florida, prominent donor to George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, and activist for the Palestinian cause, after his arrest in 2003 Sami had to wait six months between phone calls and over two years for his trial (though former Attorney General John Ashcroft was already trying to convict him in the media with high profile statements made in Europe about the major “terrorist” we had apprehended).
In a highly politicized environment, Dr. Al-Arian was moved several times, several states from his home, and prevented from contacting his attorney for months at a time -- including several months leading up to his latest scheduled trial. (...his “latest” trial? you ask... Read on).
Sami has been kept in isolation, interrogated, and abused by prison guards told that he's some kind of high level terrorist... which is flat out FALSE.
Dr. Al-Arian has endured bizarre courtroom procedures, including defense witnesses barred from raising the issue of the Palestinians and the prosecution allowed to present as “evidence” shocking websites of militant extremists ENTIRELY UNAFFILIATED with Dr. Al-Arian.
Dr. Al-Arian has had to endure the antics of prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, who has refused to release Dr. Al-Arian to his grown daughter's custody, because (paraphrased) Muslims don't have to listen to their women. And Kromberg has repeatedly expressed his concern about the "Islamization" of America” (I'm sorry, but I don't see “In Allah We Trust” appearing on our currency anytime soon.)
And here's the kicker:
Dr. Sami Al-Arian, awaiting his “latest” trial, has already been TRIED AND ACQUITTED of the crimes for which he is being held... and kept behind bars nonetheless!
“Wrong answer,” said the Bush “justice” system when the verdict came... and refused to release Sami Al-Arian (as they do to this day, unmoved by an innocent man's hunger strike).
After Sami's trial, when one Terror War-addlepated reporter asked a juror, “Why didn't you convict him?” the juror responded simply, “There wasn't any evidence.”
The baffled (if “patriotic”) reporter then asked the juror, “What would it take for you to convict?”
Apparently the jury hadn't gotten the memo about how America's present leadership and their media toadies convict people, these days, with or without evidence, and keep them behind bars even when they are exonerated by a jury of their peers.
And here's where the government really screwed Dr. Al-Arian: Before they made clear that they intended to try him a SECOND time for the same crime (the Constitution calls it “DOUBLE JEOPARDY” and prohibits the practice), the government told Sami they would release him if he plead guilty to some lesser “charges” (two offenses -- NEITHER of which exists in the criminal code!).
Following the advice of his attorneys, in order to secure his freedom, Sami acceded to the government's request. He would not plead guilty to ANY crime -- least of all a crime he had not committed -- but he would admit to the “charges” the government demanded in exchange for his freedom: fibbing to a reporter (who denies that Sami did) and helping his brother-in-law with immigration.
That's when the government pulled the rug out from under Dr. Sami Al-Arian; they refused to honor the deal they offered Sami. They kept him incarcerated and scheduled his next court date.
Folks, this is NOT the Founding Fathers' America. It is George FRIKKIN' Orwell's “Amerika.”
If we let these warmongering, fearmongering, criminal cretins run away with our Constitution -- just to cover their own incompetence -- we lose the best of what this country is about.
Cointelpro has gone global. Torture is “legal.” Tapping everyone's phone and e-mail is now just fine (thanks to the brainless, spineless 110th Congress).
It is time for us to SPEAK OUT!
Get informed: Visit www.USAvsAlArian.com or www.FreeSamiNow.com
Call or write Senator Patrick Leahy (202-224-4242) or Representative John Conyers (202-225-5126), the Judiciary Committee chairmen of the Senate and House, respectively.
Fax a letter to the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility (202) 514-5050. Let them know what you think about our Justice Department employing such un-American tactics.
Get involved. These people are trying to run away with our democracy.