Dr. Sami Al-Arian could die in jail. The Palestinian computer professor is withering away in a North Carolina medical prison, where he was moved on day 24 of a hunger strike he began January 22 [see Alexander Cockburn, “The Persecution of Sami Al-Arian,” March 19].
In December 2005 a Florida jury declined to convict Al-Arian of any alleged terrorist activities despite an exhaustive six-month trial that cost the Justice Department an estimated $50 million. So the government has punished him through other means.
Last April Al-Arian pled guilty to one charge (a deal he said he accepted only to end the suffering of his family), and the government pledged to release him and let him leave the country. But a judge recently jailed him on contempt charges for refusing to testify in another case–precisely the scenario his plea agreement was supposed to protect him from.
The Justice Department must keep its word to Al-Arian and release him. If not, it is responsible for his fate.