On Saturday, members of Friends of Human Rights, The Committee to stop FBI Repression and other organizers held a public program at the First United Church of Tampa. They called the event "U.S. War on Terror", and the question posed was, who are the real victims? Mass incarcerations in the U.S. are no secret, but there are an estimated 80,000 prisoners
currently being held in solitary confinement in America, a number of them accused of being suspected terrorists.
Among those in attendance was Nahla al-Arian, the wife of Sami al-Arian, the former USF professor and political activist who for the past two decades has been fighting for his freedom after being accused of terrorism charges. In February 2003 he was arrested on 17 counts of suspected terrorism, which ultimately resulted in a 57-month sentence after he pled guilty to one count of aiding a designated terrorist group (his jury trial failed to find him guilty of anything, as the jury deadlocked on a number of counts and threw out the rest). In 2006 he was subpoenaed to testify about Muslims affiliated with terrorist groups in Virginia. He refused to testify and was imprisoned again for a year for two counts of criminal contempt, and then placed on house arrest for a number of years.
Ms. Al-Arian says that this experience nearly destroyed her family, but that she and Sami still believe in America. They had to sell everything they owned; it has cost them over a million dollars to cover legal and living expenses. She says, “The community didn't know how to deal with a family of political prisoners; they just wanted us to disappear.”
Last June, after more than a decade of being in the legal system, all of the charges against Al-Arian were dropped. The family signed a government agreement to be deported to another country. They are still looking for a place to go. Ms. Al-Arian says, “We came to America when we were very young, we grew up here.” She believes we must all work together to fight social injustice and racism - “look at what happened in Ferguson, we must be objective and unbiased.” She believes people of all religions and backgrounds should denounce terrorism.