Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Justice Department letter confirms Al-Arian abused by guards

In early 2007, Sami Al-Arian was verbally and physically abused by federal prison guards, according to the inspector general for the Department of Justice.

Last week, Al-Arian's attorney, Jonathan Turley, received a letter from an investigator from the Justice Department, agreeing with Al-Arian's complaint that he had been abused.

"It is very unusual to get a letter of this kind," said Turley. "It suggests that the evidence carried a great deal of weight."

At the time, Al-Arian was on a hunger strike in a Virginia jail, protesting being held beyond his sentence for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

The former University of South Florida professor had been sentenced to 57 months in Tampa federal court for aiding members of a terrorist group in nonviolent ways. But the Virginia incarceration was apart from that sentence.

The abuse occurred while Al-Arian, who was gaunt and sickly from starvation, was being transferred from a federal facility in Petersburg, Va., to one in Alexandria.

According to his family, Al-Arian said that a guard who was strip-searching him told him if he had his way, Al-Arian would be dead instead of in prison. He then hurled obscenities at the former USF professor, insulting his religion.

During a four-hour van trip to Alexandria, the same guard and a lieutenant tightened his handcuffs and shackles seven times, increasing the pain each time. In Alexandria, the lieutenant "physically abused Al-Arian by pushing him into a wall," according to the letter from the inspector general's investigator.

In his letter to Al-Arian's attorney, inspector general's investigator Glenn G. Powell wrote that "a preponderance of evidence supports Al-Arian's allegations." Powell also wrote that the findings have been reported to the Bureau of Prisons "for appropriate action."

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the evidence was being reviewed to decide on discipline for the two officers, who were not named in the letter. "Up to the termination of the two corrections officers," she said.

Meanwhile, Al-Arian is out on bail in Virginia, waiting to see if he will be tried for criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

Justice Department letter confirms Al-Arian abused by guards 12/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:48am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: States with legalized marijuana have more car crash claims


    DENVER — A recent insurance study links increased car crash claims to legalized recreational marijuana.

    A close-up of a flowering marijuana plant in the production room of Modern Health Concepts' greenhouse on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. [C.M. Guerrero | Miami Herald/TNS]
  2. Black lawmaker: I was called 'monkey' at protest to change Confederate street signs


    A black state legislator says he was called a "nigger" and a "monkey" Wednesday by pro-Confederates who want Hollywood to keep three roads named after Confederate generals, including one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Rep. Shevrin Jones.
  3. Senate GOP set to release health-care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON -— Senate Republicans on Thursday plan to release a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama's signature health-care law.

    From left, Uplift Executive Director Heidi Mansir, of Gardiner, Maine, former West Virginia State Rep. Denise Campbell, Elkins, W. Va., University of Alaska-Anchorage student Moira Pyhala of Soldotna, Alaska, and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson appear before Democratic senators holding a hearing about how the GOP health care bill could hurt rural Americans, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was expected to push for a vote next week on the legislation, which would eliminate much of Obama's 2010 overhaul and leave government with a diminished role in providing coverage and helping people afford it. [Associated Press]
  4. Pasco fire station reopens after hundreds of bats forced crews out

    Human Interest

    Fire crews have returned to a Hudson fire station nearly two weeks after they were forced out by possibly thousands of bats.

    Fire crews returned to Station 39 in Hudson on June 21, 2017, nearly twoo weeks after the building was closed due to a rat infestation. [Times files]
  5. Church of England head says it 'colluded with' sex abuse


    LONDON — The Church of England "colluded" with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church said Thursday.