More than a year after the terrorism trial of Sami Al-Arian, the case still stirs strong emotions.

Those feelings bubbled up again Wednesday with the showing of a new documentary about the case, USA vs. Al-Arian.

Just one block from the federal courthouse where the controversial case unfolded, Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla, stood outside the Tampa Theatre greeting people lined up to see the film.

Supporters voiced encouragement while friends embraced her and kissed her on the cheek.

“I want people to look into the life of a family that was persecuted,” she said. “The government didn’t really have a case. They destroyed our lives over nothing.”

A few feet away, a man wearing a “Global War on Terrorism” baseball cap hoisted a sign that read “Professor Sami Al-Arian. Purveyor of hate. Admitted terrorist.”

But the majority of the more than 1,200 people who bought tickets to the 90-minute documentary were unabashed Al-Arian supporters.

“I’m here because the whole saga has affected us all very personally,” said Pilar Saad, a longtime friend of the Al-Arian family who had seen an advance copy of the film. “The movie showed the impact on civil rights issues that people didn’t see during the trial.”

The event was organized by the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Amnesty International and the Friends of Human Rights.


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