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North Carolina:

Rally for Palestinian political prisoner Dr. Sami al-Arian

by staff |
April 19, 2007
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Butner, North CarolinaMore than 80 students and civil rights activists rallied here, March 24, to protest the U.S. government’s indefinite imprisonment of Dr. Sami al-Arian. Dr. al-Arian, a Palestinian, was a tenured professor of computer science at the University of South Florida. In 2003, he and three others were arrested and charged with ‘supporting terrorism.’ The U.S. government claimed he was working on behalf of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization that is fighting to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Students from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, along with members of various civil rights organizations, gathered for a two-hour vigil across from an interstate highway near the federal medical prison where the professor is being held. In front of a replica of the Statue of Liberty, they held signs and banners with slogans such as, “Free Dr. Al-Arian,” “Free all political prisoners,” and “Free speech is not terrorism.” Nahla al-Arian, Dr. al-Arian’s wife, attended the event. Salma, an activist who attended the event, said, “This is just to raise awareness and express solidarity with the family of Dr. al-Arian.”

In 2005, after a six-month trial involving over 80 government witnesses and numerous exhibits of Dr. al-Arians political writings, no evidence was produced of wrongdoing and Dr. al-Arian was acquitted of most of the charges against him. No verdict was reached on the remaining charges - with ten of the twelve jurors favoring acquittal. Dr. al-Arian entered into a plea agreement in order to end his suffering. The judge in the case ignored the sentencing recommendations of both the prosecution and the defense, giving Dr. al-Arian the maximum sentence of 57 months in prison.

Dr. al-Arian has been imprisoned more than 1500 days and subjected to inhumane prison conditions. He is in solitary confinement and 23-hour lockdowns. Dr. al-Arian has been repeatedly strip-searched, denied contact visits, allowed very limited recreation, has been denied access to religious services and has been given limited access to attorneys. Placed in unsanitary conditions with exposure to rats and roaches, Dr. al-Arian has been given limited attention for his asthma and diabetes. He has not even been allowed a mattress or a pillow. He is harassed and humiliated by prison guards.

Recently, Dr. al-Arian was forced to end a 60-day hunger strike for health reasons. Dr. al-Arian had previously engaged in a 140-day hunger strike at the beginning of his imprisonment, in which he lost 45 pounds.