(WASHINGTON D.C., 3/31/08) – Representatives of several American Muslim groups today visited Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a former Florida professor currently on his second hunger strike in federal detention to protest alleged unjust treatment by U.S. authorities.
Al-Arian began refusing food and water on March 3rd to protest a third attempt by prosecutors to compel his testimony in court. He was transferred to a medical facility in North Carolina, but has since been returned to Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va. He is now taking only liquids and has lost 32 pounds.
SEE: Jailed Professor on Hunger Strike (IPS)
Those taking part in today’s visit included representatives of American Muslim Alliance (AMA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a national coalition of major American Muslim organizations.
Following the meeting, delegation members called on the House Judiciary Committee to use its oversight function to intervene in Al-Arian’s case. They also urged American Muslims and other people of conscience to contact the committee.
CAIR recently asked that letters urging Al-Arian’s release be sent to Judge Gerald Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and to congressional leaders. Supporters are also being asked to write letters directly to Al-Arian.
SEE: Free Sami Al-Arian – How to Help
Al-Arian began his first hunger strike last year after being given a sentence of up to 18 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia. His attorneys say an earlier plea agreement freed him from further cooperation with the government. Supporters also say the government’s actions amount to a form of harassment.
In December of last year, CAIR welcomed a judge’s decision to lift civil contempt charges against Al-Arian. The charges were dropped when the grand jury he was subpoenaed to testify before expired.
SEE: CAIR Welcomes Lifting of Al-Arian Contempt Charges
In 2005, a Florida jury rejected federal charges that Al-Arian operated a cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was scheduled for release and deportation in April.
SEE: No Guilty Verdicts in Al-Arian Trial (Tampa Tribune)
At the time of his first hunger strike, AMT said the prison sentence given to Al-Arian amounted to unconstitutional “double jeopardy.”
SEE: U.S. Muslims Call Al-Arian Imprisonment ‘Double Jeopardy’
A recent documentary film, “USA vs. Al-Arian,” offers a family portrait that documents the Al-Arian family’s desperate attempt to fight terrorism charges leveled by the U.S. government.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Strategic Communications Director Ahmed Rehab, 202-870-0166, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ACTION REQUESTED: (As always be POLITE.)
CONTACT THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE to request that it intervene in Al-Arian’s case using committee oversight privileges.
COPY TO: email@example.com