The Justice Department has dropped its criminal prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian professor and activist, in a case that followed an initial trial that began in 2003. Watch our 2007 exclusive interview with Al-Arian, who spoke to Democracy Now! from prison while he was on hunger-strike. The Palestinian professor and activist’s case has been one of the most closely watched — and controversial — post-9/11 prosecutions in the United States.
Al-Arian was first accused of being involved in the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but a Florida jury failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the seventeen charges against him. Still, he chose jail time rather than undergo a second trial after prosecutors refiled charges. His defense lawyers argued prosecutors violated his plea deal by subsequently charging him for refusing to testify in cases that have nothing to do with him.
On Friday, federal prosecutors said they would give up on the contempt case. “In light of the passage of time without resolution, the United States has decided that the best available course of action is to move to dismiss the indictment so that action can be taken to remove the defendant from the United States,” wrote prosecutor Gordon Kromberg.
The Al-Arian family welcomed the news in a statement released through their attorney: “It has been a long and difficult 11 years for our family in what has ultimately been shown to be a political case… We hope that today’s events bring to a conclusion the government’s pursuit of Dr. Al-Arian and that he can finally be able to resume his life with his family in freedom.”
See our 2003 interview with Al-Arian and his attorney, David Cole.