,UAS Egan Lecture Hall
Wednesday, September 23
Juneau People for Peace and Justice & the
University of Alaska Southeast
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from prison in 1963. Laila Al-Arian will present an account about the perpetuation of injustices against her father, Sami Al-Arian, in a case that threatens justice in our own country and has repercussions across the Middle East . His crime was being a Muslim who chose to use his first amendment rights after 911.
Although a personal story, Ms. Al-Arian can also examine the case with the skills of an investigative reporter. She was in college when her father was arrested. Having since earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, she is now a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English in Washington DC . Her work has appeared in The Nation, The Independent, The Guardian, United Press International, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. With Chris Hedges, she co-authored Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians.
Ms. Al-Arian’s father is a Kuwaiti born Palestinian who immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. Dr. Al-Arian was a professor at the University of South Florida for 15 years and was once named by Newsweek magazine as a premier civil rights activist for his efforts to repeal the right by our government to use secret evidence during trials.
In early 2003, Dr. Al-Arian was charged with numerous counts of supporting terrorist activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. When announcing his arrest, Attorney General John Ashcroft called Dr. Al-Arian a “major financier of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere .” For 2-1/2 years Dr. Al-Arian would await his trial in conditions formally condemned by Amnesty International.
In December 2005, Dr. Al-Arian’s trial ended without the defense presenting any evidence or witnesses. The jury acquitted him on the most serious charges and voted 10-2 in favor of acquittal on the rest. However, Dr. Al-Arian remained in solitary confinement while the government considered retrying him on those counts.
To avoid further prison time while awaiting a possible second trial, Dr. Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to several lesser charges. The Justice Department stipulated that Dr. Al-Arian had not engaged in any violent acts and had no previous knowledge of violent acts committed in the United States or the Middle East . Despite the agreement, the judge rejected the prosecutors’ recommendations, which amounted to keeping Dr. Al-Arian imprisoned for another 2-1/2 years. And although finally released last September, he remains under house arrest on new charges of civil contempt.
Laila Al-Arian has stood by her father and family throughout this ordeal. It is a personal tragedy that also symbolizes the collateral damage to America ’s justice system and to much of the Muslim-American community in the wake of 911 .
For more information about Dr. Al-Arian's legal case, see Free Sami Al-Arian