Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2007, page 48

Human Rights

Nahla Al-Arian Speaks at Justice Department Rally

Nahla Al-Arian calls on the government to free her husband (Staff photo N. Saber).

SUPPORTERS JOINED Nahla Al-Arian outside the Department of Justice in Washington, DC on April 13 to commemorate the day her husband should have been freed. As passersby stopped to listen to speakers invited by the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, cars honked to show support.

Nahla told the crowd she’d left her two youngest children in Tampa, FL with unanswered questions. “They asked me, ”˜Why isn’t our government releasing our father? Is he going to stay in jail forever? Are we ever going to be able to be with him? Is this an endless nightmare?’”

Nahla, a mother of five children born and raised in America, can’t answer these questions, she said. The Al-Arian children feel their rights have been violated and that their father is the target of a vicious campaign by people who have abused their power. “I don’t want their faith in the system to be shaken,” Nahla said, “but at the same time the government is making it difficult for me as a mother to say that everything is fine with our country. Nothing is fine with what’s happening now.“

Prof. Sami Al-Arian has been subjected to repeated abuse and racism by prison guards and government officials in the past four years. Nayla told reporters that the previous day in Petersburg, VA, the same correctional officer who threatened the professor last January was strip-searching him again and said, “If I had my way, you wouldn’t be in prison. I’d put a bullet in your head and get it done with. You’re nothing but a piece of (expletive).”

Nayla drew a parallel between this guard who abuses his power to torment her husband and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who abuses the law to prolong the professor’s imprisonment indefinitely. “The legal process has been manipulated and exploited to target my husband, a scholar and political activist who was acquitted by a jury following a six-month trial in which our government wasted millions of tax-payer dollars,” she charged.

Last year, Al-Arian agreed to a plea bargain which allowed the government to save face and which should have ended his family’s nightmare once and for all. In return, the government agreed to release him to another country, Nayla said—but “They have not kept this promise.”

The Al-Arian children have been traumatized by seeing their father demonized on television and by visiting him in prison, especially during his 60-day hunger strike, when his life was in grave danger. These memories will stay with them forever, Nahla said. “The message they asked me to deliver is simply: ”˜we want our father back now.’ The government must listen to the voices of these children,” Nahla concluded.

Outraged citizens have sent thousands of letters condemning the persecution of Dr. Al-Arian and demanding his immediate release. For more information see the May/June Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, pp. 24-33, or go to the Web site <www.freesamialarian.com>.

Delinda C. Hanley