Few could imagine what it would be like to spend nearly five years in solitary confinement, as Sami Al-Arian did. But his family didn’t need to imagine it – this is a far-too-familiar reality for them.
Tonight at 8 in the Marshall Center Ballroom, there will be a free showing of the movie USA vs. Al-Arian, a film that presents a firsthand look into the family’s struggle during Al-Arian’s fight with the federal government more than four years ago. Following the film there will be a lecture and forum to discuss Al-Arian’s case.
The former engineering professor was convicted of conspiracy of helping the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 2003. Acquitted on eight of the 17 charges against him in December 2005, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy in April of 2006.
“Even when I went to the first day of the trial, I had misgivings – I thought they might have evidence,” John Arnaldi, a member of Friends of Human Rights said. “Maybe he was involved in terrorism. But the opening remarks … I was embarrassed to hear the prosecution.”
Under the federal plea agreement, prosecutors decided to drop the remaining eight charges against Al-Arian and deport him to Egypt, his homeland. However, Al-Arian is serving an 18-month sentence for civil contempt in the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Virginia for refusing to testify in a case regarding Muslim charities.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to detain Al-Arian prompted his two-month hunger strike earlier this year, which greatly strained his wife and children. His family has since returned to Egypt.
The film premiered at Tampa Theatre in May, but this is its USF premiere.
“I find this whole thing disturbing,” Arnaldi said. “It has really caused me to lose faith in the administration.”