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In keeping with its self-declared powers, the Bush administration quickly rounded up hundreds of detainees whom it claimed— without evidence—to be “enemy combatants.” Four detainees, Rasul, Hamdi, Padilla, and Hamdan, consisting of a British citizen, two American citizens, and an Afghan, respectively, challenged the administration in federal court cases that reached the Supreme Court.
Knowing that Al-Arian and his family could not stand the strain of solitary confinement for another two and a half years while a new case was prepared, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would retry him. His attorney urged him to make a plea in order to end the ordeal.
Al-Arian’s plea is innocuous and bears no relationship to the serious charges on which he was tried. According to Wikipedia, as part of the plea agreement “the government acknowledged that Al-Arian’s activities were non-violent and that there were no victims to the charge in the plea agreement.”
Under the plea agreement, Al-Arian’s sentence amounted essentially to time served, but he was double-crossed by Judge Moody, who according to Alexander Cockburn used “inflamed language about Al-Arian having blood on his hands” (a charge rejected by the jury) and handed down the maximum sentence.
The “terrorist” prosecutors had yet more in store for Al-Arian. In October 2006, federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, reportedly “notorious as an Islamophobe,” demanded, in violation of the plea agreement, that Al-Arian testify before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, investigating an Islamic research center. According to Wikipedia, “in a verbal agreement that appears in court transcripts, federal prosecutors agreed [as part of the plea agreement] that Al-Arian would not have to testify in Virginia.”
Al-Arian’s lawyers saw Kromberg’s subpoena of their client as a setup, and Al-Arian refused to testify. On January 22, 2007, Al-Arian was brought before a federal judge on contempt charges. He described to the judge the extraordinary abuse he had suffered at the hands of federal prison officials. The guards and officers all felt free to abuse Al-Arian, because they had heard the lie on right-wing talk radio and from neoconservative media that he was a terrorist who hated Americans. The hostile judge sentenced Al-Arian to eighteen months more on a civil contempt charge for refusing to testify about a case that he knew nothing about.
News reports that the Bush administration has contracted with Halliburton to build detention centers in the United States at a cost of $385 million revive memories of the World War II detention of Japanese American citizens. It has not been explained who are the intended detainees for the new detention centers. Do the American people want to trust with detention centers an executive branch, which claims the power to set aside habeas corpus, statutory law, due process, and the prohibition against torture?