I came across the case of Dr Sami Al-Arian earlier today when a friend of mine brought it to my attention. It sounds bizarre. He was arrested and tried under the Patriot Act for allegedly being involved with some Palestinian terrorist Groups (and I use that phrase loosely given that even the UN recently released a report stating that what is happening in Palestine is not terrorism but resistance to an illegal and brutal occupation) . However the six-month trial featured more than 80 witnesses and 400 transcripts of intercepted phone conversations and faxes. At the end of the prosecutionâ€™s case, Al-Arianâ€™s attorneys, remarkably, rested without offering a defense. On December 6, 2005, after 13 days of deliberations, the jury acquitted him on eight of 17 counts, while remaining deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal on the other nine. Of fifty-one charges against the four men, not one resulted in a conviction. In other words he should have been acquitted since he wasn’t found guilty on any one of the charges. Yet he is still being held behind bars.
"There is a pattern in the United States of taking out this type of extrajudicial punishment against people who refuse to be convicted ... A jury was not going to give them what they wanted, and they would have to take it some other way. And that's what they're doing right now. They're giving out punishment to a man they couldn't convict" -- Jonathon Turley, member Al-Arian's legal team and specialist national and security issues.
"To be patriotic is to be able to question government policy in times of crisis. To be patriotic is to stand up for the bill of rights and the Constitution in times of uncertainty and insecurity. To be patriotic is to speak up against the powerful in defense of the weak and the voiceless. To be patriotic is to challenge the abuses of the PATRIOT Act." Dr Sami Al-Arian
Ironically a number of people have been asking me recently, how I feel about the fact that I’m traveling to China in order to present at the WWW2008 conference and whether I feel guilty that by even attending the conference in China I’m somehow tacitly supporting a regime with a history of human rights violations … I responded rather facetiously “no more guilty than when I travel to the US“. It was a rather glib response yet the truth is that if the world’s Greatest Democracy continues to be criticised for it’s human rights abuses then what hope is there of convincing nations like China that they should change. It smacks of a certain hypocrisy that we are quick to point the finger at nations like China but are hesitant to do anything about our own culpability, when our nations here in the west behave in the same abhorrent manner … is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black:
In the past five years the administration has authorized torture and other abusive interrogation techniques, â€œdisappearedâ€ dozens of suspected terrorists into secretprisons, twisted domestic law to permit indefinite detention without charge of persons suspected of links to terrorism, and confined hundreds at Guantanamo Bay without charge while denying them information about the basis for their detention and meaningful opportunity to contest it. The administration has sought to exempt its actions from court oversight. -- Human Rights Watch Report 2007 on the United States.