Enough is Enough: Bush Administration Still Denying Justice for Sami Al-Arian

NEW YORK - March 4 - Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian, who has spent the past four years in jail despite a jury's failure to return a single guilty verdict against him, has been called before a third grand jury, despite the fact that Al-Arian signed a "no-cooperation" agreement with the government providing that he would not be required to appear before any grand jury. The announcement came on March 3rd, one month before his scheduled release.

Past National Lawyers Guild President Peter Erlinder, Al-Arian's counsel in 4th Circuit and 11th Circuit appeals, on the "acquitted conduct" Supreme Court cert petition said, "The duplicity of the Justice Department and the failure of the courts to recognize basic contract-law principles in this case is an example of how politically-motivated "war on terror" prosecutions are distorting the American legal system. In the Al-Arian case, the Justice Department and the courts have made a mockery of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial which should outrage all Americans as deeply as the Tampa jury that acquitted Dr. Al-Arian more than two years ago."

It is now likely that when Dr. Al-Arian again refuses to testify because of the "no-cooperation" agreement, he will be charged with obstruction of justice and could receive several additional years in prison. If he testifies, he faces a "perjury" trap based on Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg's past practice with other acquitted Palestinian defendants.

When he was arrested in February 2003, Dr. Sami Al-Arian was a prominent Palestinian academic and a leading member of the Muslim community in south Florida and one of the most prominent Palestinian academics and activists in the United States. He was acquitted on eight of 17 charges against him December 2005 after a six-month trial with three co-defendants. In April 2006 he pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy, involving assisting his brother-in-law in his immigration matters and denying to a reporter that he knew of a colleague's association with Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In return, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining eight charges on which the jury had "hung" 10-2 for acquittal and to recommend a time-served sentence with release and deportation in May 2006. The Tampa AUSA admitted, on the record, that the usual "cooperation clause" was removed from the plea agreement because Dr. Al-Arian and his lawyers would not agree to any form of cooperation.

At sentencing on May 1, 2007, Tampa Federal Judge James Moody gave him the constitutional maximum sentence of an additional year, citing the very offenses of which the jury had acquitted him. Despite the "no-cooperation" agreement, and while the appeal of his acquitted conduct sentence was pending on appeal, Al-Arian was found in civil contempt in January 2007. In December 2007, a federal judge in lifted the civil contempt and Al-Arian's new release date was April 2008.

After the contempt detention Dr. Al Arian went on a 100-day hunger-strike because of the government's refusal to honor the plea agreement. (He has just begun another hunger-strike.) Before trial Dr. Al-Arian was held in Super-Max solitary and was subjected to inhumane and punitive conditions, including 23-hour lockdown, abuse from prison staff, unsanitary conditions with exposure to vermin, denial of adequate winter clothing, bedding and religiously appropriate diet, all in breach of Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party and has triggered an on-going investigation by the DOJ Inspector General.

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