12 years after being accused of allegedly supporting Islamic Jihad, Palestinian-American professor Sami Al Arian was deported to Turkey on Thursday at midnight.
“In 2003, Sami Al-Arian was a professor at the University of South Florida, a legal resident of the U.S. since 1975, and one of the most prominent Palestinian civil rights activists in the U.S.,” reported The Intercept. “That year, the course of his life was altered irrevocably when he was indicted on highly controversial terrorism charges by then Attorney General John Ashcroft.”
Ironically Al-Arian had supported George W. Bush’s run for presidency after the candidate came out against the use of secret evidence.
When former University of South Florida professor Ramadan Shahlah became head of Islamic Jihad, Al-Arian took part in an contentious interview with Bill O’Reilly about Shahlah. Al-Arian immediately became the target of hundreds of hate messages. He was put on paid leave for a few months by the university and ultimately released. He then became the target of the US government for allegedly supporting Islamic Jihad also.
“Sami was accused of ties to a militant group, but a Florida jury failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the 17 charges against him,” reported Democracy Now. “After prosecutors refiled charges, Sami chose jail time and deportation rather than face a second trial.
“For much of the three years following his arrest in 2003, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement and reportedly abused by prison staff under conditions Amnesty International called ‘gratuitously punitive’.”
During his time in prison Al-Arian was subjected to strip searches, prevented from seeing his family and lawyers, and regularly abused by prison staff. He was imprisoned for more than five years and kept in solitary confinement for three years.
“I actually applied to many countries, some in Latin America, some in the Middle East and Turkey. And I have friends who actually talked to the Turkish authorities, and they immediately made the decision to accept me,” Al-Arian told Democracy Now. “So, it’s a tribute to them and to their thinking, of that they value people who fight for freedom or have been dealt with unjustly. And I’m very grateful for that.”
“The outcome was hugely embarrassing for the U.S. Government,” said the Intercept. “Despite having amassed over 20,000 hours of phone conversations and hundreds of fax messages from over a decade of surveilling Al-Arian, the DOJ – even with all the advantages they enjoyed in terrorism cases in 2003 (and continue to enjoy today) – was unable to convince a jury Al-Arian was the arch-terrorist they had very publicly proclaimed him to be.
“Indeed, instead of producing evidence that Al-Arian was involved in actual “terrorism,” the government attempted to use as evidence copies of books and magazines Al-Arian had owned in a failed effort to convince the jury to convict him of apparent thought crimes.
“This effort failed and a jury ruled to acquit Al-Arian on 8 out of 17 charges while failing to come to a verdict on the remainder.