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Guards aim more abuse at Al-Arian

By Nicole Colson | April 20, 2007 | Page 16

INSTEAD OF walking out of jail earlier this month as scheduled, Dr. Sami Al-Arian endured more racist abuse and a death threat from his prison guards.

Al-Arian is the Palestinian professor who has been languishing behind bars on trumped-up charges of aiding terrorism since 2003. Now there is word of new harassment.

According to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace (TBCJP), for nearly three days last week, Al-Arian's whereabouts were unknown by his family--as he was transported from the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., where he had been housed during a recent hunger strike, to the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia.

During the trip, Al-Arian was housed for two days at a temporary facility in Petersburg, Va. When he arrived, according to the TBCJP, Al-Arian had his undergarments confiscated, and was given dirty, torn ones to replace them. He was placed in an unheated cell with pools of freezing water on the floor, and given no extra clothing or blankets to keep warm. Guards also reportedly seized his legal documents--then "misplaced" them.

After 30 hours like this, Al-Arian was taken at 4:30 a.m. to be transferred to the Alexandria Detention Center. While being strip-searched for the trip, a guard reportedly asked him, "Where are you from? Afghanistan?"

What else to read

Letters of support can be sent to Dr. Sami Al-Arian, Alexandria Detention Center, 2001 Mill Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314. For more information on the case and what you can do to help, see the Free Sami Al-Arian Web site.

To protest Al-Arian's abuse and continued imprisonment, write to: Honorable Judge Gerald Lee, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA 22314; and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 320 1st St., NW, Washington, DC 20534, 202-307-3198, [email protected].


When Al-Arian refused to answer, the guard continued, "It doesn't matter where you're from. If I had my way, you wouldn't be in prison. I'd put a bullet in your head and get it done with. You're nothing but a piece of shit."

When Al-Arian objected, the guard again replied, "I know enough about all you guys. You're all pieces of shit. You can go pray to the fuck that you pray to."

Al-Arian says that the guard refused to give him his name. The lieutenant in charge who reportedly heard the exchange then took Al-Arian aside and squeezed his right arm and right leg--while he was wearing handcuffs and leg irons--to the point that he lost feeling in his limbs during the four-hour trip to Alexandria.

Al-Arian was reportedly told by the lieutenant to "Shut the fuck up"--and had his cuffs tightened seven times during the trip. When he arrived in Alexandria, the lieutenant repeatedly pulled the chain around Al-Arian's waist in an attempt to trip him.

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THOUGH HIS original trial in Florida ended with a jury finding him not guilty or deadlocking on all counts, Al-Arian is still behind bars.

Faced with the threat of a retrial, he last year agreed to plead guilty to a single count of aiding the nonviolent activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad--in exchange for a short additional sentence and voluntary deportation.

Al-Arian should have been released April 13 to rejoin his wife and five children. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg instead had Al-Arian transferred to Virginia to force him to testify in another case, despite the plea agreement that specifically exempted Al-Arian from having to testify. When he refused to cooperate, Al-Arian was hit with an additional 18-month jail sentence for civil contempt--a sentence that may be extended if he continues to refuse to take the stand.

In protest, he began a hunger strike in January to bring attention to his indefinite detention and the inhumane treatment he has suffered while in custody, including racist abuse from guards and unsanitary prison conditions.

After 60 days on strike--during which he lost 55 pounds, more than a quarter of his body weight--Al-Arian's family persuaded him to end the strike, fearing that his life was in danger. Reports of the new round of abuse came as Al-Arian recovered from the ordeal.

As the Mexican American Political Association said in a recent statement announcing that it has joined the American Muslim Alliance and others in calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign, Al-Arian's case is a "classic example" of government persecution of Arab Americans and Muslims in the wake of September 11. It's time to let Sami Al-Arian go!

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