The Ongoing Persecution of Sami Al-Arian


There are few prospects in the justice system so grimly awful as when the feds decide never to let go. Rebuffed in their persecutions of some target by juries, or by contrary judges, they shift ground, betray solemn agreements, dream up new stratagems to exhaust their victims, drive them into bankruptcy, despair and even to suicide. They have all the money and all the time in the world.

Sixteen months ago I wrote here about the appalling vendetta conducted by the Justice Department against Sami Al-Arian, a professor from Florida who had the book thrown at him in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. As I described it then, Dr. Al-Arian was charged in a bloated terrorism and conspiracy case and spent two and a half years in prison, in solitary confinement.

In December 2005, despite the efforts of a blatantly biased judge, a jury acquitted Dr. Al-Arian of the most serious charges. Dr. Al-Arian's lawyers urged him to make a plea on the two relatively minor offenses of which he was found guilty and put an end to his ordeal and the suffering of his family.

A central aspect of the plea agreement was an understanding that Dr. Al-Arian would not be subject to further prosecution or called to cooperate with the government on any matter. The plea agreement signed with Florida prosecutors explicitly protected him from cooperating in any additional cases. The government recommended the shortest possible sentence, no more than time served.

But then, almost certainly after a visit to the local federal prosecutors in Tampa by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the feds double-crossed him on the plea agreement, and he was thrown back into prison. The biased judge handed down the maximum sentence, which meant a further eleven months of incarceration before release and deportation slated for April 2007.

Then Dr. Al-Arian passed into the malign orbit of prosecutors in Virginia, notably assistant federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg. The Justice Department's plan was to set up Dr. Al-Arian in a perjury trap, compelling him to testify before a grand jury investigating an Islamic think tank called the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in a case completely unrelated to his. The institute has been the target of a six-year witch hunt by Kromberg. (MORE)

 


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