Sami’s Story

As Sami Al-Arian remains in jail in Virginia, nearly 1,200 people gathered in downtown Tampa on Wednesday to watch the premier of USA vs. Al-Arian, a documentary that details the former USF professor’s legal saga and the toll it has taken on his wife and five children.

Nahla Al-Arian, Sami’s wife, arrived at the Tampa Theatre about an hour before the film was set to begin, mingling with the large, festive crowd. The show almost sold out, with less than 30 of the 1,200 tickets unsold.

“All our friends and supporters are here,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see so many people supporting Sami like this.”Norwegian filmmaker Line Halvorsen and her crew followed Sami’s family around during his six-month trial, which ended with the jury failing to convict Al-Arian on a single count.

The U.S. government believes Al-Arian funded terrorists in Palestine; Al-Arian remains in jail on contempt charges for failing to testify in other terror-related cases.

The film blames the events of 9/11 for the government’s pursuit of Al-Arian and questions whether a fair trial is possible for Muslim Americans.

– John Calkins