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Family members condemn FBI for jailing, killing loved ones

By Jessica Schwartz |
September 15, 2014
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Tracy Molm, of the Committee Against FBI Repression speaking in Tampa. (FightBack!News/Staff)

Tampa, FL - 70 people gathered at the First United Church of Tampa, Sept. 13, to hear speakers on FBI repression of Arab, Muslim and anti-war activists in the U.S. Topics discussed included entrapment, preemptive prosecution and solitary confinement. Over 80,000 people are currently under solitary confinement, a reality for many political prisoners in the U.S.

The speakers were Nahla Al-Arian, wife of Dr. Sami Al-Arian; Hatem Fariz; Al-Arian’s co-defendant, who was imprisoned in a Communication Management Unit; Avni Osmakac, brother of Sami Osmakac; Tracy Molm of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and one of the anti-war 23; and Elena Teyer, mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev.

Nahla Al-Arian spoke about her husband’s case. Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian-American professor lost his job at University of South Florida after comments he made on the Bill O’Reilly show following 9/11. He was later imprisoned and then put under house arrest for supposedly working with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The reality was that Dr. Al-Arian was giving humanitarian aid to Palestine and was vocally critical of Israel. Due to an agreement with the government, Nahla and Sami Al-Arian will be deported to another country, which has proved difficult given his case and their Palestinian background.

Nahla Al-Arian said, “They just wanted us to disappear.”

Hatem Fariz was a co-defendant with Dr. Al-Arian and endured living in a Communication Management Unit, or CMU. Fariz spent four years in a CMU in Terre Haute, Indiana. Fariz described the deplorable conditions he lived under in the CMU, including waiting over a month to see a doctor, being allotted only two 15-minute phone calls a month, and two hour-long visits a month, which only included immediate family.

“We didn’t send money to kill people. We sent money to feed people”, said Hatem Fariz.

Avni Osmakac is the older brother of Sami Osmakac, an Albanian man who was coerced by the FBI to buy fake weapons for attacks in the Tampa Bay area. Sami Osmakac was put into solitary confinement even before his trial began. Osmakac began showing signs of mental illness in 2010, and started going to mosques for answers, where he met an informant that would entrap him in illegal activity, recorded him making threats, while keeping thousands of other recordings secret for ‘national security’ purposes.

Sami Osmakac sentencing will occur in November at the Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse in Tampa. On Sept. 15 at Genaro Coffee in St. Petersburg, there will be a film screening of Informant, where Avni Osmakac will also be speaking.

Tracy Molm, one of the 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists subpoenaed by a grand jury, also spoke. The activists had their homes raided and belongings seized in a witch hunt that attempted to silence dissent against the government’s foreign policies. Molm spoke about the connection between their case and Rasmea Odeh, the Palestinian-American activist from Chicago who will be going on trial in November for supposed immigration fraud, based on a 20 year old application where she allegedly omitted an arrest she had in Israel over 40 years ago. While imprisoned in Israel, Rasmea was tortured into a confession.

Despite the struggles endured as a result of her activism, Molm encouraged attendees to use activism to speak out against repression. “The thing that got us into this situation will be getting us out of it,” she said.

Elena Teyer spoke about the murder by the FBI of her late son-in-law, Ibragim Todashev, in Orlando last year. He was questioned by the FBI because of a supposed connection he had with the suspected Boston bombers, all of whom were Chechen-American. He was forced into writing a confession by the FBI and when he attempted to refuse and leave his apartment, they shot him seven times, including once at point-blank range in the head. The FBI initially claimed that Todashev attacked the agents with a weapon, but were inconsistent about the type of weapon and he was later found to be unarmed. According to the autopsy report, three of the shots went through his left arm into his body, which indicated that he arm was close to his body and therefore could not have been trying to attack the officers.

“Don’t let them abuse your rights,” Teyer urged the crowd.

The event was sponsored by Friends of Human Rights and Committee to Stop FBI Repression, who are both part of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.