AN INTERVIEW WITH NAHLA AL-ARIAN
SAMI AL-ARIAN is a victim of the U.S. "war on terror."
The U.S. government has gone out of its way to make an example of this outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights. Racist prosecutors, inhumane treatment and abuse in custody, the prospect of indefinite detention--Al-Arian has been subjected to this and more in the four years he's been behind bars.
Al-Arian was arrested in February 2003 on charges that he and others used an academic think tank, a Muslim school and a charity as a cover for raising money for "terrorism." Though a Florida jury acquitted him or deadlocked on all counts in 2005, the Feds kept him in prison.
Faced with a retrial, Al-Arian agreed last year to plead guilty to the least serious charge in exchange for what was supposed to be a small addition sentence and his deportation.
But Al-Arian's nightmare continues. First, federal Judge James Moody ignored prosecutors' recommendations and sentenced Al-Arian to the maximum possible.
Under the longer sentence, Al-Arian's release was set for April 13, 2007. But he is now facing an indefinite extension of his prison sentence.
Last year, Gordon Kromberg, the assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, had Al-Arian transferred to Virginia to testify in an investigation into a Muslim charity there--despite an agreement with Florida prosecutors, recorded in court transcripts, that he would be exempt from future testimony.
When he refused to testify, Al-Arian was found guilty of civil contempt--adding an additional 18 months onto his sentence and opening up the possibility that the government can keep him in prison indefinitely by extending the contempt charge, which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld.