February 15, 2007

Action Alert: Al-Arian Collapses on 23rd Day of Hunger Strike

Dr. Sami Al-Arian, the political prisoner who is being unlawfully detained by the US government, has collapsed in prison in Virginia and was subsequently transferred to a medical facility in North Carolina. Just this week, I wrote about the hunger strike that Al-Arian began about 23 days ago in protest of his continued detention despite a plea agreement with prosecutors. Read my last post to find out more about the broadcast interview with Al-Arian and the details of his case.

More importantly, national Muslim organizations such as MAS and CAIR have called on all people of conscience to fax letters to the judge in charge of Sami's case. Please see the links to the action alerts below and consider taking a few minutes to type up a letter and fax it to the judge. The least we can do is speak out against this injustice.

From MAS Freedom Foundation:
WASHINGTON, DC - Feb. 15, 2007 (MASNET) Due to the severe health concerns of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, who collapsed on the twenty-third day of his Hunger Strike for Justice, the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation has organized an emergency fax campaign to Judge Gerald Lee of the Virginia Eastern District Court.

Dr. Sami Al-Arian embarked upon a hunger strike to protest his legal treatment, incarceration, and current eighteen month jail sentence for his refusal to testify testifying before a grand jury. This verdict was rendered against him despite a plea agreement he had with the government, which included a no-cooperation clause.

Given the fact that sending letters to Judge Gerald Lee will take a long period of time, MAS Freedom Foundation is urging individuals to send faxes directly to Judge Lee's chambers today. Additionally, everyone is encouraged to contact at least 10 other individuals and request that they send faxes and contact others as well. Please be polite and respectful when writing to Judge Gerald Lee. Send your fax to the Honorable Judge Gerald Lee at: (703) 299-3339. Below is a sample fax highlighting key points to address.
To the Honorable Judge Gerald Lee

Your Honor,
Dr. Sami Al-Arian is currently on a hunger strike in federal detention to protest his treatment by U.S. authorities. Family members have reported that Dr. Al-Arian collapsed on the twenty-third day of his fast and has been moved from Virginia to a medial facility in North Carolina. He began his hunger strike more than 3 weeks ago after refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia. His attorneys have indicated that an earlier plea agreement freed him from further cooperation and that the government's actions amount to a form of harassment. On humanitarian grounds I respectfully request that Dr. Al-Arian's sentence for civil contempt be removed.
NOTE: It is critically important to indicate that you are requesting the removal of the 18 month sentence for civil contempt. Judge Lee only has jurisdiction over the civil contempt portion of Dr. Al-Arian's sentence, thus he cannot release Dr. Al-Arian. However, Judge Lee can remove the 18 month civil contempt sentence making Dr. Al-Arian eligible for release in April.
Please don't forget to join MAS Freedom Foundation and thousands across the United States on Wednesday, February 21st as we unite in solidarity with Dr. Al-Arian's Hunger Strike for Justice and for a national press conference in front of the Department of Justice at 11:00am.
Please write to the following individuals to ask for an immediate end to Dr. Al-Arian's suffering:

1- Honorable Judge Gerald Lee
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA 22314
2- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
Fax Number: 202- 307-6777
E-mails to the Department of Justice, including the Attorney General,
may be sent to askdoj@usdoj.gov

3- The Honorable John Conyers, Jr
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
202-225-2072 Fax

4- Senator Patrick Leahy
433 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224- 4242 Fax

Fact sheet on Sami Al-Arian's case
Action Alert from CAIR

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February 14, 2007

Political Satire...The Arab Way

At least her video has a... "message."

(Hat tip: Leila)
More about the video: Juan Cole, Abu Sinan

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February 13, 2007

Al-Arian Speaks Out, Continues Hunger Strike

The case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian has been covered more than once on this blog, and unfortunately I must continue to write about the case while this innocent man is still languishing in prison. This time, however, I will not write much about the case, but let Al-Arian speak for himself. Last Wednesday, Amy Goodman hosted him on Democracy Now, making it the first time Al-Arian appears in a broadcast interview in four years.

Goodman interviews Al-Arian, his attorney, and his daughter, all of whom shed light on the current conditions Sami is facing, the way the government has been denying him his rights, and the future of the case. You can read the transcript, or listen to the podcast on iTunes (Feb.7th episode). It's really worth it to hear the details of this case directly from Al-Arian, the hunger strike he has started, and the impact it has had on his family.

As for the hunger strike Al-Arian started on January 22, community members and his supporters are now also participating in a rolling hunger strike to bring attention to the injustice taking place in his case. The Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation is calling on everyone who supports human rights, freedom of expression, and due process, to support Sami by participating in the rolling hunger strike and to take action by writing to the judge presiding over the case, attorney general Gonzalez, Senator Leahy, and their own congress members asking them to end the suffering Al-Arian is facing. Fellow bloggers at KABOBfest had their own "KABOBfast" in support of Al-Arian last week.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" -MLK, Jr.

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February 8, 2007

Obama in Town

I guess he's always "in town" since he works right around the corner, in the Senate, but last Friday, he was at George Mason University for a rally sponsored by Students for Barack Obama. I was invited to this event through Facebook, and since GMU is my alma mater, the political junkie in me just had more reason to spend my Friday standing up for a couple of hours so I can see Mr. Obama for about 20 minutes. Thankfully, he did make an appearance, and gave a moving speech about the way he grew up and how that has influenced his plans to run for president in order to take the country off the disastrous path it is on now. I won't go into much detail, because the speech is of course available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.

But I would like to note something interesting about this event that will surely have an influence on the whole 2008 election process. The event, as I mentioned, was organized by SFBO, and the event was advertised primarily through a Facebook event page. If you don't know what Facebook is, well, there's not much hope for you. No really, it's a social networking site that began on the college level and has now expanded so that anyone can sign up. It's the 7th most visited site in the US, with more than 7.5 million users and 20,000 new members joining everyday. The fact that such a political event was organized through this website shows just how important new media will be in the upcoming elections. In the 2006 midterm elections, many candidates (or their staffers) created Facebook accounts, listing their political platforms, and other information that might attract young voters. Each Facebook account holder also had the opportunity to add certain "agenda items" that they considered important, such as "I support abortion" or "I oppose the war on Iraq". Your personal profile becomes a place for you to share your political opinions with friends and acquaintances, and a medium through which politicians can reach out to you. Candidates are also starting their own blogs in an attempt to tap into all forms of media to communicate with voters and potential supporters.

And of course, we all know the important role bloggers can play in reporting happenings, recording videos of events, and revealing information about candidates before the mainstream media can get to it. All it took was a YouTube video to bring down Republican Senator George Allen after the infamous macaca incident. In addition to recognizing the organizers of the rally, Senator Obama also recognized the creator of a Facebook group called "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)". It's really amazing how important these tools will become in the next few months leading up to the primaries and the elections. We will just have to wait and see who takes advantage of them most, and who does so successfully.

Until then, here are some pics and clips from the event taken by yours truly. (No, I didn't jump on stage after he finished talking, or race to grab his hand and get his autograph, or follow him out to his motorcade. Others definitely did, I witnessed. He was definitely a celebrity, and he knew how to work that crowd.)

students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu  students for barack obama rally @ gmu students for barack obama rally @ gmu

You can watch the full video of the event here, or check the short clips below taken by me.

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February 6, 2007

Bone Chilling Cold

It's too cold to blog.

Current temperature in Washington, D.C. : 24 F, with windchill feels like 11 F
(-4 C, with windchill feels like -12 C)

I hope it snows tonight; it's definitely warmer when it snows.

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February 1, 2007

Justice: 2, War on the Innocent: 0

Another win today for the American justice system: jurors found Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar and Muhammad Salah not guilty of charges the US government brought against them in 2004 claiming they were tied to terrorism. Accused of funneling money to the Palestinian group HAMAS, a designated terrorist organization by the US, the two men had maintained that they had only provided money to fund social and humanitarian services for their fellow Palestinians. After a 3 month hearing, and two weeks deliberating, the 12 jurors proved once again that there is hope for truth and justice to be upheld in the United States, no matter how elusive they may seem these days.

These men and women were smart enough to see through the misrepresentation of Ashqar and Salah's actions by the government prosecutors who went as far as claiming they were responsible for the death of an American teenager who was killed by a suicide bombing in Israel. The government tried to convince the jurors by calling Israeli agents to testify against the two men. These were the same agents that knew that Mr. Salah was severely tortured in Israeli prisons to the point where he confessed to anything they told him to. They heard that the FBI had wanted to ask Dr. Ashqar to become an informant for them, indicating that they did not deem him a terrorist threat. The inconsistencies and lack of concrete evidence against the men was detected by the jury which in the end returned a not guilty verdict on the major changes.

This verdict comes as a major blow to the "Justice" Department's efforts at trying so-called terrorists. More than a year ago, a jury similarly acquitted Dr. Sami Al-Arian of charges that he was funneling money to Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian group on the US terror list. I wrote several posts about Dr. Al-Arian's case, who is still in jail today despite being acquitted by the jury in his trial. Unfortunately, the US government is going after minor charges and attempting to find ways just to keep him jail. He has been on a hunger strike protesting his detainment for 11 days so far (more about his case).

My faith in the American judicial system has not been completely restored, because cases like these should not have been brought to surface in the first place. Dr. Ashqar and Dr. Al-Arian have been wronged, and not even an acquittal can alleviate the suffering their families have endured for years and the emotional pain of being wrongly charged and incarcerated. The Muslim and Arab communities from which these individuals come in Virginia and Florida, respectfully, have also endured a heavy toll, being portrayed as supporters of terrorists and consistently targeted for simply practicing their rights as citizens of this country.

I would love to see that smirk on your face once again, Mr. Ashcroft, as you were so proud when you announced their indictment more than two years ago. Please, don't be disappointed now that the American people have, unlike you, chosen truth and justice above all else.

Thank you to the jurors who took their responsibility seriously and did their job by scrutinizing the evidence and showing the public that such cases are indeed nothing but witch hunts against the innocent men and women who dare to speak out against the injustices inflicted upon their Palestinian brethren. I hope the judge will follow suit and not allow these men to suffer anymore than they already have. Two points for justice, none for the War on the Innocent.

It is also worth noting that most major media networks did not headline the verdict. In previous cases where similar charges were brought forth, and the jury returned convictions, the verdicts made headlines within minutes of the news. When their indictments were announced, every major news station dedicated the first reports to images of Ashcroft reading the charges. Had these men been found guilty, I assure you that CNN, Fox, CBS, and every other online, print, and tv media outlet would have emphasized the news beyond imagination. I waited to see if anything would make the CBS or ABC evening news reports, and my suspicions were confirmed. The verdict did not make it to the CNN homepage either, but was buried in the "law" section. If THIS is the type of media you rely on, you'd better think twice before tuning in again.

Federal Jury Acquits Two Men of Terror Charges for Hamas Links
US Jury Acquits Two Men of Hamas Conspiracy
American Muslims Call Al-Arian Imprisonment 'Double Jeopardy'
Free Sami Al-Arian website
Free Dr. Ashqar website

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