Activists demonstrate in support of Sami Al-Arian by Mitch E. Perry02/02/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday
Today a small group of supporters of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian quietly stood across the street from the Federal Building in downtown Tampa, showing solidarity with him as he continues a hunger strike in prison. He began that last week after being given an additional sentence of in prison of up to 18 months, for refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia.
Nahla Al-Arian is Sami Al-Arian’s wife. She says when Al-Arian reached an agreement with the Federal government last year and pleaded guilty to 1 count in his Federal Terrorism trial, part of that agreement meant he would be released and deported this April, without having to testify in another trial (roll tape#1 o.q.”it’s word”)
Al-Arian began his hunger strike on January 22nd after being held in contempt for a 2nd time for refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia. Nahla Al-Arian says she could finally be reunited with him this April. That’s when his original sentence was scheduled to end, and he would be deported to an as yet undetermined country (roll tape#2 o.q.”somewhere else”)
Al-Arian says the reason he will not testify in the case against a Muslim think tank based in Hernon Virginia, is because it is inconsistent with his faith and values to testify. And he anticipates that any testimony would be used to create new “facts” to re-arrest him. That’s because of a lack of faith in the prosecutor in the Virginia case, U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg.
Mel Underbakke is with the group Friends of Human Rights. She says she and many others in her group are participating in a ‘rolling’ hunger strike to show solidarity with Sami Al-Arian. (roll tape#3 o.q.”by the government”)
Earlier this week, The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a national coalition of major American Muslim organizations, said the new prison sentence given to Al-Arian amounted to unconstitutional "double jeopardy
Later this month will mark 4 years that Al-Arian will have spent in American jails.
That’s despite the fact that the jury in his initial trial acquitted him in December of 2005 on eight of the most serious charges and deadlocked on the others.
Last April, 5 months after that trial ended in a deadlock, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to provide support to a Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization.
Protestor Haven Whiteside said similar miscarriages of justice have happened to Muslims across the country in the past few years (roll tape#4 o.q.” specifically”)
Chuck Lee is president of the Florida Council of Churches. He calls the government’s treatment of Al-Arian ‘vindictive “, and says it calls into question the whole issue of fairness (roll tape#5 o.q.”smacks of hypocrisy”)
And Lee wondered if Al-Arian were white and Christain, if he would be treated unfairly
(roll tape#6 o.q.”a place here”)