"U.S. vs. Al-Arian" to be released05/10/07 Mitch E. Perry
Next Wednesday night, the film, “The United States vs. Al-Arian”, will be shown at the Tampa Theatre. The announcement was made today in front of the Tampa Theatre, by Ahmed Bedier, Director of the Tampa office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, and a WMNF programmer (roll tape#1 o.q.’ in the country”)
The film has released to critical acclaim. Directed by Lena Halvorsen, it has already won awards in Norway and at New Orleans Human Rights Festival since being released earlier this year. It is currently looking for a north American distributor.
The local screening next Wednesday night is being by CAIR, WMNF, Friends of Human Rights, and Amnesty International.
And after the film, there will be a panel discussion. Again, CAIR”S Ahmed Bedier
(roll tape#2 o.q.”also on the panel”) And that panel will be monitored by WMNF’s Rob Lorei.
The Reverend Warren Clark is with the First United Church of Crist in Tampa, and with Friends of Human Rights. He said the film provides an international focus on a Palestinian -American families plight in post 9/11 America (roll tape#3 o.q.”this country”)
The film was reviewed by the Hollywood trade paper Variety back in February. Critic Jay Weisberg says director Line Halvorsen constructs a ‘damning’ portrait of the case by focusing on the trial’s emotional toll.
Weisberg also calls it “unquestionably biased” but says the film throws the spotlight on a US Justice system ‘shanghied by the USA Patriot Act.
The saga of Sami Al-Arian has been controversial from the beginning, when terrorism profiler Steven Emerson and then the Tampa Tribune reported on Al-Arian’s association with the Middle Eastern Group the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Shortly after that, President Clinton declared the PIJ a terrorist group, making it illegal for any American to provide assistance to it.
Al-Arian was suspended from USF for a couple of years, but resumed teaching there in the late 1990’s. But after the 9/11 attacks and a subsequent cable news appearance, the University again suspended him. In February of 2003 he was arrested with 3 other co-defendants in an original 121 page indictment. But in December of 2005, the jury found him not guilty on all counts in which they could reach a verdict on.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to 1 count of providing material support – and should have been released –and deported by now. But a contempt of court charge against Al-Arian for his refusal to testify in an unrelated charge has kept him in detention.
The Council on Islamic -American Relations Ahmed Bedier says that originally director Lina Halvorsen thought this Tampa Screening would coincide with Al-Arian’s ultimate release from American jails. But that is not to be (roll tape#4 o.q.”be a part II”)
Tickets are available at the Tampa Theatre Box office, but sales are moving briskly. Bedier said 600 tickets have already been sold. The Theatre holds over 1400 seats.