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Please take immediate action — Save a life

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Teach
Peace Foundation

Take Action and save the life of Dr. Sami Al-Arian!

Save a life! Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian was acquitted in 2005
of bogus "terrorism" charges by a Tampa Bay jury, yet he still remains
imprisoned in the United States.

Dr. Sami Al-Arian is currently on the fifteenth day of a no food or water hunger
strike to protest the legal manipulations and harassment by the Bush Administration
that are keeping him behind bars despite his acquittal by jury and subsequent
plea bargain (signed under significant pressure from the U.S. government) that
promised his release in May of 2006.

Dr. Al-Arian, a diabetic, is already losing his eyesight and is in extraordinary
danger of renal failure. The federal medical facility where he has been moved
to in Bunter, North Carolina has not given him an IV, despite their legal obligation
to keep him alive. The situation is urgent! Please write immediately to your
elected officials and the federal medical facility to protest this legal harassment
and torture and to demand his release. Dr. Al-Arian’s life depends on it.

Specifically, please contact (call and email):

Honorable Judge Gerald Lee
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA 22314
Fax: (703) 299-3339

(PLEASE CALL!)

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5126
(202) 225-0072 Fax
john.conyers@mail.house.gov

Senator Patrick Leahy
433 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(299029) 224-4242
senator_leahy@leahy.senate.gov

Attorney General Michael Mukasey
Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001
Fax Number: (202) 307-6777

AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

Federal medical facility in Butner, North Carolina

*demand to know why they haven’t given him an IV*

(919) 575-3900

BUH/EXECASSISTANT@BOP.GOV

Other Action Opportunity

Organize a screening of the award-winning documentaryabout Dr. Al-Arian’s case,
"USA vs. Al-Arian" (http://www.usavsalarian.com/).

Join the Facebook group: "Free Dr. Sami Al-Arian Now!"

For more information, please see campaign website: www.freesamialarian.com

For an article about the case by former President of the National Lawyers Guild:
http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2008/03/torture-of-sami-al-arian.php (Below)

Chris Hedges article about the case: "Dr. Al-Arian’s Third Strike"
(http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080307_dr_al_arians_third_strike/).

Thank you,

The Teach Peace Staff

PS. Please participate tomorrow night (Wednesday, 3/19) in a 5th anniversary
Iraq War vigil. Click here for more details or call us for information about
an event near you.

 

THE TORTURE OF SAMI AL-ARIAN

(March 12, 2008) In December 2005, a Tampa jury acquitted Dr. Al Arian of “terrorism”
charges. Two years later he is still in prison, and in the 9th day of a hunger-strike
because the Bush administration refuses to honor a May 2006 promise to release
and deport him. Unless he receives proper medical care within days, he risks
irreversible renal failure and death – all under the watchful eyes of the Bush
“Justice” Department. READ MORE.

 

The Torture of Sami Al Arian

JURIST Guest Columnist Peter Erlinder of William Mitchell College of Law, attorney
on appeal for Dr. Sami Al Arian, says that the treatment accorded the acquitted
but still detained academic Palestinian activist from Tampa – now on hunger
strike and in danger of irreversible renal failure at a federal prison hospital
– is abuse of power amounting to torture taking place in the United States itself
under the aegis of the Bush Administration and its "war on terror"…

The storm of criticism that followed George Bush’s weekend veto of Congressional
limits on the CIA’s use of torture might lead to the conclusion that,
reprehensible as “torture” might be in remote, secret CIA locations,
it could never happen here in the US. But the Bush administration’s abuse
of power in its treatment of Dr. Sami al Arian and other acquitted Palestinian
“terrorism-defendants” has already demonstrated that “torture”
for this administration is commonplace – even here.

In December 2005, a Tampa jury acquitted Dr. Al Arian of “terrorism”
charges. Two years later he is still in prison, and in the 6th day of a hunger-strike
because the Bush administration refuses to honor a May 2006 promise to release
and deport him. Unless he receives proper medical care within days, he risks
irreversible renal failure and death – all under the watchful eyes of the Bush
“Justice” Department.

Apparently, “legal black holes” like Guantánamo can be created
without having to set-up a special overseas prison, if domestic law can be sufficiently
manipulated. And the Bush administration is very, very good at manipulation,
both legal and otherwise.

A Propagandized Arrest and Pre-Trial Torture

In a February 2003 Moscow press conference, then Attorney-General John Ashcroft
breathlessly announced the FBI capture of “the major North American financier
for terrorism in the middle-east”, in Tampa, Florida, of all places. Ashcroft
pointed proudly to obviously, pre-arranged media coverage of a shackled Dr.
Sami Al Arian being taken from his home by a SWAT team, with his children cowering
in the background.

The images were a lot like those of US troops and cowering Iraqi women. But
this was not Iraq, or Afghanistan. And Dr. Al Arian was never even suspected
of any violence. He was a well-known and well-respected academic and Palestinian
activist, and that, the jury concluded more that 2 years later, had been his
only “crime.”

For more than a year before trial, Dr. Al Arian was in Super-Max isolation
on 24/7 lockdown. He was denied family visits and was chained whenever he was
out of his cell, even to talk to his lawyers. Super-Max prisoners are usually
only convicts too violent to live in the general prison population, criminals
among criminals. But the Bush administration put Dr. Al Arian in the Super-Max,
hundreds of miles from his family, even before the final charges against him
had been decided, and without even accusing him of being violent. It was…torture.

On top of Guantánamo-like conditions, Dr. Al Arian was denied warm clothing,
writing materials and was subject to taunting guards, convinced by Bush administration
propaganda that he was a second Osama bin Laden. Things got so bad that the
Justice Department Inspector General is investigating abuse by guards. A UN
body formally objected to his conditions of confinement before trial.

By the beginning of trial in July 2005, the original 200 charges against Dr.
Al Arian and his 3 co-defendants were reduced to eliminate any mention of the
accusations leveled by Ashcroft. But the remaining 94 “terrorism-related”
counts could result in the death penalty or life in prison, including the 17
counts facing Dr. Al Arian, if he had been convicted. But he wasn’t convicted,
and neither were any of his co-defendants.

Trial By Jury: Still a “Bulwark” Against Government Abuse

After hearing 6 months of evidence, including 80 witnesses; hundreds of hours
of FISA wiretaps culled from 425,000 conversations recorded over 10 years; testimony
of Israeli intelligence agents; heart-wrenching testimony of Israeli suicide
bombing victims; graphic video of suffering bombing victims; and more than $50
million in taxpayer money being thrown at the case, the jury refused to find
any of the defendants guilty of anything!

Dr. Al Arian’s lawyers, Linda Moreno and Bill Moffett, did not call one
witness or put on one piece of evidence. The defense was the First Amendment
right to free speech and the lack of any connection between Dr. Al Arian’s
lawful support for the Palestinian struggle in the U.S. and the tragic violence
connected to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

On December 2005 TIME Magazine called Dr. Al Arian’s acquittal “the
biggest defeat for the Bush Administration to date” [1], and so it was.
It was also a victory for the United States Constitution. The Tampa jury upheld
the best traditions of our Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, that is supposed
to be a “bulwark” against misuse of governmental power.

For a while it seemed that the Constitution was actually working the way it
was supposed to, but the Bush administration made sure that this illusion did
not last for long. Within days, the administration said they were going to re-try
Dr. Al Arian on the lesser charges on which the jury “hung” 10-2
for acquittal. Re-trial is not illegal, but highly unusual when the evidence
was so clearly rejected by the jury.

But at the same time the Bush administration was telling the world they would
try Dr. Al Arian again, they secretly approached Al Arian’s lawyers with
“an offer he couldn’t refuse” in early 2006 to avoid government
being embarrassed by another acquittal.

Setting the Trap: “An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse”

The Bush-administration promised to: (a) drop all charges; (b) release Dr.
Al Arian in 30 days; and (c) assist in deporting him to country of his choice,
immediately upon his release. Compared to the death penalty or life in prison
that he had been facing weeks earlier, it was a difficult offer to turn down
but he did precisely that, because there were a couple of “catches”
he and his lawyers refused to accept.

First, he would have to plead guilty to a crime, and he had not committed any
crimes. Second, the standard Tampa plea-agreement had a “grand jury co-operation”
clause, and Dr. Al Arian would not agree to either. The Bush administration
panicked and sweetened their offer.

If Dr. Al Arian would only admit having helped his brother-in-law with immigration
matters, and not telling a reporter about a colleague’s political associations,
both of which were true, and neither of which were crimes, the Bush-administration
would agree call the legal, non-violent acts evidence of a “conspiracy,”
and recommend his release by the end of May 2006.

But Dr. Al Arian and his lawyers still said “no-deal” because he
absolutely refused to “co-operate” with a Bush Justice Department
that had set him up and prosecuted him for political reasons. So the Bush-administration
“blinked” again, because they needed to avoid another embarrassing
defeat.

This time, they removed the “grand jury co-operation” requirement
because, as they admitted in court, it was only way to get his name on the dotted
line. They also admitted, in court on April 14, that the terms of their agreement
with Al Arian had been approved in Washington, D.C. and specifically applied
to Alexandria, Virginia, the federal district where most of the Pentagon’s
employees live and a favorite place for grand-jury “terrorism” investigations.

The “Trap” Begins to Close

But when Dr. Al Arian appeared in court on May 1, 2006, expecting the agreement
to become final, and to be released before the month was out, the game changed.
Judge James Moody agreed to immediate deportation (which means neither the judge
or the Bush-administration considered him dangerous) and all other charges were
dropped. Instead of time-served release and deportation, the judge sentenced
him to the constitutional maximum sentence, another year in prison, and read
a prepared statement publicly declaring him guilty of “killing women and
children in Israel.”

In essence, the judge convicted Dr. Al Arian of the same violent offenses that
the jury had rejected. Several of the jurors went public after the sentencing
hearing expressing outrage that the judge had ignored their verdict. So much
for the Sixth Amendment.

Instead of beginning a new life in May 2006, as the Bush Administration led
him to believe would happen, Dr. Al Arian would be in prison until April 2007.
But there was no reason to think that the Bush administration was actually manipulating
the legal system…yet.

The Bush Administration’s Post-Acquittal “Torture-Strategy”

On May 10, 2006 the “trap” snapped shut when the Assistant U.S.
Attorney in Alexandria sought a secret order calling Dr. Al Arian before the
very Alexandria grand jury that the Tampa prosecutor said had been covered by
the “no grand jury cooperation” agreement. Neither Dr. Al Arian
nor his lawyers knew about the secret order until October 2006, when AUSA Gordon
Kromberg informed them Dr. Al Arian would be brought before the grand jury –
during Ramadan.

When Dr. Al Arian appeared before the grand jury and relied on the “no-grand
jury cooperation” promise, Judge Lee held him in contempt of court, and
he was in contempt detention until December 2007, when the grand jury expires,
which effectively extended original May 2006 release until April 7, 2008, two
years after the Bush administration promised he would be released and deported.

Last Week: Another Turn of the Screw

On March 3, 2008 AUSA Kromberg turned the torture screw up another notch, when
Dr. Al Arian was brought back to court and informed that he would be called
before yet another grand jury on March 19, 2008, this time only 3 weeks before
his latest release and deportation date. If he insists on the Bush administration
respecting its “no-grand jury cooperation” promise again, he is
likely to be held in contempt again, which will effectively cancel the April
release date and extend his time in prison again…indefinitely. And, he
has to insist on it because terms of the plea agreement “contract”
are still on appeal, a Catch-22, if there ever was one.

But, there is a more sinister manipulation in the works. AUSA Kromberg has
charged other acquitted Palestinian defendants with perjury, when they did testify
before his grand jury. Other acquitted Palestinian defendants have been charged
with “obstruction of justice," when they declined. Dr. Al Arian’s
lawyer, George Washington Univesity law professor Jon Turley has said that Kromberg
is “setting up Al Arian for a perjury/obstruction trap.” The other
acquitted Palestinian defendants facing the same “Hobson’s choice”
have been given “terrorism-enhanced” sentences of 5 to 10 years
whether they answered grand jury questions or not after American juries already
acquitted them of the underlying charges. Imprisoned for a decade after being
acquitted certainly could be called “torture”, or at least “Kafka-esque.”

Neither Alberto Gonzalez, nor "General Mukasey" (as he apparently
referred to in White House circles) have done anything to rein in this misuse
of prosecutorial power, but neither have the Courts nor the Democrat-controlled
Senate and House Judiciary Committees even though both Chairmen, Sen. Leahy
and Cong. Conyers, were made aware of this blatant manipulation of prosecutorial
power, for apparently political purposes, more than a year ago.

Dr. Al Arian’s Last Protest Fast

But now, the Bush administration, the Courts and Congressional oversight committees
have a chance to intervene. On March 4, 2008, the day after the “perjury/obstruction”
trap was sent by Kromberg, Dr. Al Arian began a complete food and water fast
to protest, in the only way he can, the perfidy of the Bush administration,
and the “torture” caused by its rejection of the constitution and
abuse of its power.

This is Dr. Al Arian’s third hunger-strike during his 5 years of imprisonment.
The first was in 2005 and lasted 140 days on liquids only, before he was permitted
the lawyers of his choice. In early 2006 he drank only water for 60 days, when
the court refused to require the Bush-administration to honor their “no
grand jury cooperation” promise, the first time. Now, he is refusing all
food and liquids was transferred to the prison hospital on March 5. But he is
not getting necessary medical treatment.

As of Monday, March 10, Dr. Al Arian has not received any intravenous liquids,
and he is in danger of irreversible renal failure – yet another kind of torture,
that could be ended with proper medical care. If Dr. Al Arian dies, AUSA Kromberg
will have accomplished his stated “mission”, so the question is,
will anybody else respond, before it is too late?

End the Torture of Dr. Al Arian Now!

Between now and his April 7, 2008 release/deportation date, Kromberg will have
to bring Dr. Al-Arian before the grand jury on a stretcher, kept alive by IV’s,
assuming he receives proper treatment in the next day or two. Unless, of course,
the Congress, the Courts or Mukasey put an end to the torture he has so far
been subjected to. While Mukasey or Bush could release Al Arian with the stroke
of a pen. Bush’s veto of the torture limitation bill is an indication that Dr.
Al Arian’s own torture will not be ended without the intervention of the
Congress, the Courts, or the American people.

The torture of Dr. Al Arian is not “water-boarding,” nor the “enhanced
interrogation techniques” that Bush says is now part of America’s
regular way of doing business…but it is “torture” nonetheless.
The Bush veto on Saturday demonstrates the Bush-Cheney “war on terror”
is not really about terrorism at all, but is a politically-motivated assault
directed against the constitution and the rule of law.

A government that is unwilling to publicly renounce torture committed in its
name, and in the name of the American people, is capable of doing anything,
to anybody, at any time, and the Al Arian case is a prime example of a lawless
regime displaying itself to the world.[2] The Al Arian case is not law, it is
politics…and torture. It is time for Congress, the Courts and the American
people to put an end to the legal torture of Dr. Al Arian, now.

Release him!

(c) 2008 Peter Erlinder.

Notes

[1] TIME Magazine, December 19, 2005, "When Terrorism Charges Just Won’t
Stick"

[2] The Al Arian case is the subject of “USA v. Al Arian,” awarded the prize
for best documentary at the Nordic Film Festival in 2007, which is being shown
in film festivals and other venues worldwide.

Peter Erlinder is a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul,
MN and attorney on appeal for Dr. Sami Al Arian in appeals to the US 4th Circuit,
the 11th Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States – all of which have
declined to intervene in his case. E-mail peter.erlinder@wmitchell.edu

March 11, 2008

Source URL: http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2008/03/torture-of-sami-al-arian.php