Al-Arab Blog - مدونة العرب
The suffering of Dr. Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh
The suffering by Dr. Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh extended to the one-year anniversary of their unjust arrest, as they endured a grueling forced transfer back to the oppressive conditions of Coleman Federal Penitentiary following a brief four week stay at the local Orient Road Jail in Tampa to attend court hearings and review evidence.
The men were awakened at 4 am on Wed., February 18 at which point they were kept in a room for four hours. Thereafter, they were taken to the Tampa Federal Courthouse where they again had to wait for four hours until noon when they were rushed to a van awaiting them outside. They were then taken to Tampa International Airport to await an incoming flight of transfer inmates from Miami. With their legs and hands shackled until they reached Coleman, they were forced to wait for many hours in the back of the vehicle until the flight arrived with the other prisoners.
The journey to Coleman, Florida, which is 70 miles from Tampa, took an astonishing eight hours, during which time Dr. Al-Arian and Hammoudeh were not allowed to leave their uncomfortable seats to stretch their legs or use bathroom facilities.
By the time they reached Coleman Penitentiary at approximately 9:30 pm, prison officials were angered that the men had returned "too soon," as there was no room to accommodate them in the solitary confinement disciplinary section known as the "Special Housing Unit." The officials then stated that they had expressed these facts to U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun, who allegedly was fully aware of the situation, but authorized the transfer anyway. As such, the men were placed in a temporary holding cell with no chairs, beds, or mattresses, but only the concrete ground on which to lie and a thin blanket to cover them.
The room was excessively cold, with freezing air rushing through the vent in the ceiling, which guards refused to turn off. They also refused to provide them with blankets or warmer clothing. The men were forced to endure the torturous conditions of this cell for many hours. Throughout the 20-hour journey, the men were not given any food or water, and were continuously denied their requests for food by officers and prison officials who told them to wait until the following morning's breakfast. Both men had been extremely weary and fell ill, while Hammoudeh, who is diabetic, suffered from dizzy spells as a result of this purposeful deprivation. While in the holding cell, officials confined Dr. Al-Arian and Hammoudeh with another inmate, who out of sympathy for their suffering throughout the day, offered them an apple, the only food he had.
The men were ultimately moved back to the SHU where they have continued to endure the excessively harsh conditions. Their presence there is predicated on Magistrate McCoun's and Coleman officials' justification that these pre-trial detainees should remain in isolation from other inmates "for their own safety," yet throughout this arduous journey, Dr. Al-Arian and Hammoudeh were frequently kept in the presence of prison inmates.
Sami Al-Arian's wife, Nahla, said: "This trip was also devastating to me and my kids. [During Al-Arian's stay in Orient] my children got used to hearing my husband's voice on the phone every night before they went to bed, and now in Coleman they won't even have this small privilege." She added that her husband's move back to Coleman is extremely distressing to the family, particularly Ali, 13, and Lama, 10, as they feel "the loss of their father in their life."
One can only continue to draw the conclusion that these measures are kept in place as part of the continuing emotional, physical, and psychological torture of these political prisoners. We urge all concerned citizens to protest the treatment of Dr. Sami Al-Arian and Sameeh Hammoudeh to Magistrate McCoun, the U.S. Marshall Service, and the officials at Coleman Penitentiary.
All concerned US citizens should urge their immediate release or as an alternative, their detention in the more humane conditions of the local Orient Road Jail in Tampa, where Al-Arian and Hammoudeh have access to friends, family, legal counsel, and are able to attend court proceedings and review evidence in preparation for their defense:
The Honorable Thomas B. McCoun
U.S. District Court
801 North Florida Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33602
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Anti War - Anti Racism
Let the downFall of Sharon be end to Zionism
By the Late, great political cartoonist Mahmoud Kahil