NEW YORK - January 5 - The National Lawyers Guild demands that the government immediately release Dr. Sami Al-Arian on bail and that it guarantee fair procedures in the resolution of outstanding charges against him. An outspoken supporter of the Palestinian people's right to live free from occupation, Dr. Al-Arian has been a political target of the U.S. government.
In a significant blow to the Bush administration’s assault on civil rights and civil liberties, Palestinian activist and former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian was found not guilty on December 6, 2005, of eight of the 17 federal terrorism charges brought against him for his alleged conspiracy to support the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The court declared a mistrial on the remaining counts based on the jury’s inability to reach a unanimous verdict. Yet Dr. Al-Arian still remains imprisoned, as he has been for almost three years, often in deplorable conditions. He has endured two years of solitary confinement in a maximum security penitentiary, was placed in 23-hour lock down in a windowless cell where the light was never turned off and where he was denied a clock or watch. He has been denied basic privileges, been chained and shackled, subject to strip searches and given limited visitation.
Guild President Michael Avery said, “This verdict proves that the Justice Department has completely failed in its heavy-handed case against Dr. Al-Arian, a case in which the defense called not one witness. In rejecting the government’s arguments, the jury found Dr. Al-Arian not guilty on the most serious charges, and affirmed his First Amendment right to speak out on behalf of the Palestinian people.”
Now, instead of retrying him, the government is considering deportation proceedings for Dr. Al-Arian. The NLG strongly urges the government to avoid deportation proceedings, not least because Al-Arian is a stateless Palestinian, and demands that Dr. Al-Arian be afforded a full and fair opportunity to contest any evidence used in such deportation proceedings if they do occur. The NLG urges the government to serve the interests of justice by immediately freeing Dr. Sami Al-Arian and dropping all further charges against him.
Founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated national bar association, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States, with more than 200 chapters. The Guild has a long history of representing individuals who the government has deemed a threat to national security. Guild members defended FBI-targeted individuals and helped expose illegal FBI and CIA surveillance, infiltration and disruption tactics (COINTELPRO) that the U.S. Senate "Church Commission" hearings detailed in 1975-76 and which led to enactment of the Freedom of Information Act and other specific limitations on federal investigative power.