Never Ending Prosecution and Vendetta: The Kafkaesque Story of Sami Al-Arian
Published on May 29, 2012
In a nationwide press conference in 2003, George W. Bush’s attorney general, the born-again John Ashcroft, trumpeted the arrest of Dr. Sami al-Arian, who he described as “the most dangerous man in the world.”
In announcing the 120-page indictment, Ashcroft charged that al-Arian and his three co-defendants played “a substantial role in international terrorism…They finance … and assist acts of terror. Our message to them is clear: We make no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks, and those who knowingly finance, manage, or supervise terrorist organizations.” He charged that al-Arian had been actively funding terrorist attacks inIsraelas theUSleader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
All that was nine years ago. Nine years. And, in one form or another, Dr. al-Arian has pretty much been incarcerated ever since.
Incarcerated not in some tinpot dictatorship, but in the United States of America. The same America that prides itself on the fairness and integrity of its criminal justice system and the rule of law.
As Glenn Greenwald wrote in Salon: “Each time it appears that [al-Arian’s] plight will finally be over, the U.S. Government concocts a new process to ensure that he remains a prisoner.”
This is how it happened:
Rewind to the mid-1990s. That’s when the FBI began its decade-long surveillance of Dr. al-Arian. A Palestinian born in Kuwait, al-Arian was in the U.S.as a permanent resident. He was well-known in the Muslim Community throughout the United States, popular among his students at the University of South Florida (USF), where he was a tenured professor of computer engineering. At the same time, his reputation as a well-informed Palestinian was growing among members of Congress and advisors to President Clinton, who invited him to the White House.
Things began to turn sour for al-Arian after his university tried to fire him following his guest appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show, The Factor, on Fox News. It was clear that USF was looking for a pretext to make the al-Arian story go away. The DOJ finally indicted al-Arian on Feb, 20, 2003, and accused him of backing organizations fronting for Palestinian Islamic Jihad – a 1997 State Department-designated “Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).”
It charged al-Arian with multiple counts of conspiracies to provide material support for this organization. The mountain of wiretaps, emails, speeches, lectures, and much more the FBI collected from Dr. al-Arian, would constitute the government’s case against him.
A week after al-Arian’s indictment, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft fired him with the backing of then Governor Jeb Bush, and pressure from a vocal segment of the “Israel right or wrong” US foreign policy establishment.