It's been more than five years since Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a professor at the University of South Florida, was arrested and jailed on terrorism and conspiracy charges cobbled together under the USA PATRIOT Act.
Al-Arian, a longtime Palestinian activist, spent more than two and a half years in solitary confinement, until December 2005, when a jury acquitted him of the most serious of the charges. His family claims he signed a plea agreement - admitting to a minor charge - just to put an end to the nightmarish ordeal in hopes of being reunited with his family.
But Al-Arian is still languishing in a Virginia prison, the victim of what his daughter, Laila Al-Arian, describes as the Bush administration's ongoing persecution of Arabs and Muslims living in the United States.
This Wednesday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m., Laila Al-Arian will discuss her father's case in the Community Room of Burlington's Fletcher Free Library. Al-Arian is calling on U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, to investigate her father's prolonged imprisonment.
According to some estimates, the federal government has already spent $50 million in its attempted prosecution of Dr. Al-Arian. The family's ordeal was chronicled in the 2007 award-winning documentary, USA v. Al-Arian.
"From the beginning, it has been clear that this was a political prosecution and the pursuit of contempt by the rogue prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia have underscored this," says Linda Moreno, one of Al-Arian's attorneys, in a posting on his daughter's blog. "As I have often said, I support my government going after terrorists and those who wish to do harm against my country. But I have never represented a terrorist, and an American jury found that Dr. Al Arian was no terrorist."
In a statement, Laila Al-Arian said she's looking forward to coming to Burlington, in part because of the community support for keeping Al Jazeera English on the air. A graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, she recently began working as a producer for Al Jazeera English in Washington, D.C.