(WASHINGTON D.C., 3/19/08) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on American Muslims and other people of conscience to write letters in support of 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, who has already lost almost 30 pounds, began refusing food and water on March 3rd to protest a third attempt by prosecutors to compel his testimony in court. He was recently transferred from his Virginia prison to a medical facility in North Carolina.
SEE: Inmate on Hunger Strike Transferred to Medical Prison (AP)
CAIR 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.
SEE: Free Sami Al-Arian – How to Help
Supporters are also being asked to write letters directly to Al-Arian.
SEE: Free Sami Al-Arian – Contact Info
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, a national coalition of major American Muslim organizations 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: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Strategic Communications Director Ahmed Rehab, 202-870-0166, E-Mail: email@example.com