Thursday, March 29, 2007

Free Sami Al-Arian

"After 60 days without food, an ailing Sami Al-Arian called off his hunger strike last week at the urging of his wife and children. But just hours later, a federal appeals court upheld a civil contempt ruling that could keep Al-Arian behind bars indefinitely.

"Al-Arian has been imprisoned since 2003 on trumped-up charges of supporting terrorism--even though a Florida jury acquitted him or deadlocked on all counts in 2005.

"Faced with the possibility of a retrial, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of supporting the nonviolent activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The deal specified that Al-Arian would be given a short additional sentence, followed by voluntary deportation--even though Al-Arian has lived in the U.S. since 1975, and his five children are all U.S. citizens.

"Instead, the U.S. government continued its witch-hunt.

"First, a Florida judge imposed the maximum sentence, despite the recommendations of federal prosecutors in Florida for a lesser sentence. Then, federal prosecutors in Virginia demanded that Al-Arian testify in an investigation into Muslim charities in that state--despite a verbal agreement, recorded in court transcripts, that he would be exempt from future testimony.

"The appeals court's decision last week upholds the contempt ruling against Al-Arian for refusing to testify--claiming that the plea agreement "contains no language which would bar the government from compelling appellant's testimony before a grand jury."

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