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The ongoing persecution of Sami al-Arian

The ongoing persecution of Sami al-ArianThere are few prospects in the justice system so grimly awful as when the feds decide never to let go. Rebuffed in their persecutions of some target by juries, or by contrary judges, they shift ground, betray solemn agreements and dream up new stratagems to exhaust their victims and drive them into bankruptcy, despair and even suicide. They have all the money and all the time in the world. Take the appalling vendetta conducted by the Justice Department against Sami al-Arian, a professor from Florida who had the book thrown at him in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. As I described it back then, al-Arian was charged in a bloated terrorism and conspiracy case and spent two and a half years in prison, in solitary confinement. In December 2005, despite the efforts of a blatantly biased judge, a Tampa jury hung 10-2 in favor of acquittal on nine charges. The government, as part of the plea deal, dropped eight of them and demanded al-Arian plead guilty to a watereddown version of one charge. Given the vindictive posture of the Department of Justice and the possibility it might insist on a costly retrial, al-Arian’s lawyers urged him to accept. So, as part of the plea agreement, which the government betrayed, he pled guilty to one charge of providing nonviolent services to people associated with a designated terrorist organization. A central aspect of the plea agreement was an understanding that al-Arian would not be subject to further prosecution or called to cooperate with the government on any matter. The plea agreement, signed with Florida prosecutors, explicitly protected him from cooperating in any additional cases. The government recommended the shortest possible sentence, no more than time served. But then, almost certainly after a visit to the local federal prosecutors in Tampa by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the feds double-crossed him on the plea agreement and he was thrown back into prison. The biased judge handed down the maximum sentence, which meant a further 11 months of incarceration before release and deportation, slated for April 2007. Al-Arian passed into the malignant orbit of prosecutors in Virginia, notably assistant federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg. The DOJ’s plan now was to set up al-Arian in a perjury trap, compelling him to testify before a grand jury investigating an Islamic think tank called the International Institute of Islamic Thought in a case that is completely unrelated to his. The institute has been the target of a sixyear witch-hunt by Kromberg. On Nov. 16, 2006, dragged up to Virginia, al-Arian was brought before the grand jury and placed in civil contempt for refusing to testify because the actual intent of the subpoena is the attempt to trap him. When the grand jury’s term expired, Kromberg promptly
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