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Al-Arian trial tests nation’s justice system

The trial of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian is slowly moving forward, but the jury selection process, as well as the location of the trial, cast doubt on how well justice will be served.

Al-Arian stands accused of helping an organization called the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His arrest was one of the few instances that allowed former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to hold a press conference that gave the American public the illusion that their “war on terror” was effectively being waged.

If Al-Arian, a man who has spent the past few years in jail — a large portion of which he spent in solitary confinement — turns out to be innocent, it would be embarrassing for the Bush administration, to say the least. But this should not be an impetus to sentence him no matter the circumstances.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the jury that is to try Al-Arian includes four individuals who served in the military or have family members who served as well as one whose brother is currently serving in Iraq. The jury also includes two individuals who have professed they have a strong interest in the state of the Israeli nation.

It can only be hoped that these individuals will be able to put their personal feelings aside and objectively look at the facts. It is understandable that they may be hesitant to let Al-Arian walk, as his charges — aiding and abetting terrorists — are serious ones. However, they have the duty to do so if the facts do not warrant a guilty verdict as America’s justice system operates on the precept of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Either way, it appears the case of Al-Arian will be closely watched in the United States as well as abroad. It is to be hoped hat it will be a showcase of justice and not a charade to assign blame. If it is the latter, it will be quite a blow not only to our justice system, but also to our standing in the international community.