THE PERSECUTION OF SAMI AL-ARIAN
One of the first big show trials here in the post-9/11 homeland was of a Muslim professor from Florida, now 49, Sami Al-Arian. Pro-Israel hawks had resented this computer professor at the University of South Florida long before Atta and the hijackers flew their planes into the Trade Towers because they saw Al-Arian, a Palestinian born in Kuwait of parents kicked out of their homeland in 1948, as an effective agitator here for the Palestinian cause. As John Sugg, a fine journalist based in Tampa who's followed Al-Arian's tribulations for years, wrote in the spring of 2006:
"When was Al-Arian important? More than a decade ago, when Israel's Likudniks in the United States, such as [Steven] Emerson, were working feverishly to undermine the Oslo peace process. No Arab voice could be tolerated, and Al-Arian was vigorously trying to communicate with our government and its leaders. He was being successful, making speeches to intelligence and military commanders at MacDill AFB's Central Command, inviting the FBI and other officials to attend meetings of his groups. People were beginning to listen."
At the direct instigation of Attorney General Ashcroft, the Feds threw the book at Al-Arian in February 2003. He was arrested with much fanfare and charged in a bloated terrorism and conspiracy case. He spent two and a half years in prison, in solitary confinement under atrocious conditions. To confer with his lawyers, he had to hobble half a mile, hands and feet shackled, his law files balanced on his back.