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Decry persecution of Muslim professor

Published Apr 18, 2008 7:48 PM

A national press conference to demand the immediate release of Dr. Sami Al-Arian was held at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center in Harlem on April 15. Al-Arian was in the 44th day of a hunger strike to demand that the government abide by the terms of his release. He has been imprisoned for more than five years.

Speakers at news conference for
Dr. Sami Al-Arian, jailed Palestinian
on hunger strike.
WW photo: Sue Harris

Al-Arian, a tenured professor at the University of South Florida, was arrested in 2003. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft trumpeted it as the “arrest of the most dangerous financier of Islamic Jihad in the Western world.” This case of a Palestinian who raised funds for orphans and charities back home is viewed as one of the most extreme examples of racist and anti-Muslim persecution. The Justice Department has spent $50 million prosecuting the case. After a six-month trial, a jury found no evidence that any crime had been committed.

Despite the verdict and in violation of the terms of release and deportation set by the Justice Department, the authorities have continued to refuse to release Al-Arian. Instead, they have demanded that he give testimony against others. This he has courageously refused to do. They are vindictively threatening to keep him in prison for years in a flagrant abuse of the grand jury system.

Now Al-Arian is being held in isolation and transferred from one holding facility to another in a seriously weakened state, without any medical monitoring. His daughter reported that even his family does not know where he is currently being held.

Speakers at the press conference for Al-Arian represented prominent Muslim and civil rights organizations. They included Laila Al-Arian, his daughter; Malaak Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz; Ramsey Clark and Sara Flounders of the International Action Center; Imam Siraj Wahajimam Talib Abdur-Rashid and Aliya Latif of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Heidi Boghosian of the National Lawyers Guild; Ghazi Khan Khan of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights; Mahdi Brey of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation; and Muhammad Salim Akhtar of the American Muslim Alliance.

Supporters are urged to call, write and/or sign the on-line petition to demand Al-Arian’s release and that the departments of Justice and Immigration adhere to their responsibility for the health and life of prisoners held in their custody. The petition and more information are available at the Web site FreeSamiNow.com.