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Federal government's prosecutors heap insult on injury
Nightmare continues for Al-Arian

By Nicole Colson | October 6, 2006 | Page 2

THE FEDERAL government is determined to make Dr. Sami Al-Arian suffer.

Al-Arian is a former University of South Florida professor who for years spoke out on behalf of the cause of Palestinians. In 2003, he was arrested and charged (along with several co-defendants) with racketeering, conspiracy and "materially aiding terrorists," when the government accused him using an academic think tank, a Muslim school and a charity as a cover to raise money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In December 2005, after a six month-long trial, a Florida jury acquitted Al-Arian of eight of the 17 charges against him, including the most serious ones, and deadlocked on the rest. But the government refused to release Al-Arian, instead keeping him locked up for months while it considered whether or not to retry him.

In April of this year, after a total of 38 months in prison, in order to end his separation from his family, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of the least serious charge in exchange for some additional jail time and his deportation.

Even that wasn't enough for the government. At his sentencing, Federal Judge James Moody sentenced Al-Arian to the maximum sentence possible--despite the fact that prosecutors had recommended a relatively short amount of additional time behind bars. His release date was set for April 13, 2007.

Moody justified the sentence with the claim that Al-Arian raised "money to blow up the children of others"--an accusation the jury had rejected.

Now, the never-ending nightmare is getting worse for Al-Arian. According to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, Al-Arian was recently transported from his original detention facility in Florida to a number of different locations under harsh conditions.

"During the move, Dr. Al-Arian was taken through Miami, Atlanta, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma City and Pennsylvania, before ultimately reaching Virginia, all in the span of 72 hours," read a recent statement from the group. "His arms and legs were continuously shackled and kept in stress positions. In spite of the fact that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan had begun, Dr. Al-Arian was barely given any food or water, for over 18 hours at times. During the trip, he was also subjected to verbal abuse by the U.S. Marshals responsible for transporting him, and had his personal property confiscated."

Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., where Al-Arian is now housed, has reportedly refused to allow Al-Arian to have a Koran or prayer rug, and had denied him medication for his diabetes.

According to a report by the St. Petersburg Times, the move to Virginia is part of the government's plan to force Al-Arian to testify before a grand jury in another terrorism-related case--despite the fact that his original plea agreement was specifically designed to keep him from testifying.

Now, in order to avoid any further terrorism charges, Al-Arian will likely take the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify, which will almost certainly result in contempt charges. That would mean his prison sentence could be extended yet again--by as much as 18 months.

"It's an outrageous violation of the agreement," said Al-Arian's attorney Bill Moffitt. "Sami is about finished and they're piling on."

To protest the treatment of Sami Al-Arian, e-mail the authorities at Northern Neck Regional Jail.

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