Supporters seek release of Al-Arian

04/15/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Supporters of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian today demanded that the U.S. government release him from custody and then deport him.

Friday was the scheduled release date for Al-Arian on the single count that pled guilty to in his federal terrorism trial in 2005. That’s when he was moved from a federal jail in Warsaw, Virginia, to an immigration facility in Howard County, Maryland.

Ramzy Kilic is the civil rights coordinator for the Tampa office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Five years ago Al-Arian was arrested on sensational charges that he was the American financier to the Middle Eastern terrorist group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Accused of 17 specific counts of helping that group, a Tampa jury acquitted him on eight charges, and deadlocked on the remaining nine.

According to friends of Al-Arian, since he was moved into the immigration facility over the weekend, he has been deprived of ice water, the Koran, access to a telephone, reading and writing materials and regular visiting hours - things he received in federal prison. And he’s on another hunger strike to protest his detainment, his third since being incarcerated.

In his original deal with the U.S. government, an agreement was reached that would preclude Al-Arian from testifying in any other trial. But Gordon Kromburg, a federal prosecutor in Virginia, has been trying the past couple of years to have Al-Arian testify in an unrelated case. Last month a federal judge said Al-Arian would be summoned to a third grand jury. That’s what led to his most current hunger strike.

Last year, a documentary on Al-Arian’s Federal terrorism trial, USA vs. Al-Arian, was released. Mel Underbakke with the First United Church of Tampa has been traveling the country in the past few months, screening the documentary for audiences across the U.S. Underbakke said she’s been moved by the reactions expressed after viewing the film.

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