This documentary is in English with Croatian subtitle
Original title USA mot Al-Arian
Director Line Halvorsen
Short summary USA vs AL-ARIAN is a close portrait of an Arab-American family facing terrorism charges levelled by the U.S. Government.
Summary USA vs AL-ARIAN is a close portrait of an Arab-American family facing terrorism charges levelled by the U.S. Government. The film shows a personal story of a family living in a society where fear of terrorism has resulted in increasing stigmatization and discrimination against Muslims.
For years, Nahla Al-Arian and her children have been fighting to prove the innocence of husband and father Sami, a Palestinian refugee, university professor and civil rights activist, who has lived in the USA for more than thirty years. In 2003, Sami Al-Arian was accused of giving material support to a terrorist organization and held in solitary confinement for over three years. His six-month trial ended without a single guilty verdict. The failure to convict Dr. Al-Arian was seen as a stinging rebuke for the federal government. While the Bush administration considered this a landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism, Sami Al-Arian claims he has been targeted in an attempt to silence his political views. Because the jury hung on some of the counts, however, Dr. Al-Arian remained in jail as the prosecution threatened to retry him.
In May 2006 he agreed to a plea bargain with the US Government in order to put an end to the ordeal and to be reunited with his family. A federal judge sentenced him to 57 months in prison and subsequent deportation, and his family is now searching for a country that will accept him, a stateless Palestinian, upon his release from prison. The case of Sami Al-Arian is one of the first major tests of the USA PATRIOT ACT, a controversial law passed hastily after September 11, 2001.
Screenplay Line Halvorsen
D.O.P Tone Andersen
Editor Trond Winterkjær, Line Halvorsen
Composer Stein Berge Svendsen
Sound Erling Rein
Producer Jan Dalchow
Production company Dalchows Verden | Møllergata 28 | N-0179 Oslo
Country of origin Norway
Release date (national) 2007-01-19
Screen ratio 1:1,85
Sound System Dolby SRD
Length in min's 99
No. of reels 5
International sales TV 2 WORLD Sales | Sortedam Dossering 55A | DK-2100 Copenhagen | Phone: + 45 65 21 22 23 | Fax: + 45 65 21 41 99 | mail: sales (at) tv2.dk
Distributor (Norway only) Exposed Film as
Festival participation 2007 Tromsø International Film Festival
2007 New Orleans Human Rights Film Festival, USA
2007 Norwegian Documentary Film Festival Volda
2007 HotDocs, Toronto, Canada
2007 Norwegian Short Film Festival Grimstad
2007 LabourFest, San Francisco
2007 Intl Festival of Muslim Cinema "Golden Minbar", Russia
2007 Human Rights Film Festival Novi Sad, Serbia
2007 Nordisk Panorama, Oulu
2007 Vivisect Human Rights festval, Novi Sad, Serbia
2007 Boston Palestine Film Festival, USA
2007 DOCNZ. New Zealand
2007 Cinemambiente, Torino, Italy
2007 Cinema Vèritè, Iran Int'l Documentary Festival, Theran
2007 Document 5- International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Scotland
2007 Arab Film Festival - San Francisco
2007 Århus Film Festival, Denmark
2007 United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford, USA
2007 Femmina Int. Filmfestival, Verdal
2007 Arab Film Festival - Los Angeles
2007 Festival of Liberties, Brüssel, Belgium
2007 CPH.DOX, København, Denmark
2007 Festival del Popoli, Firenze, Italia
2007 Dubai Int. Film Festival, United Arab Emirates
2008 DocsBarcelona, Spain
2008 Middle East Film Festival, Olympia, USA
2008 Tempo Documentary Festival, Sweden
2008 Amnesty Int'l Film Festival, The Netherlands
2008 Belfast Film Festival
2008 Al Jazeera Int'l Documentary Film Festival, Qatar
Prizes received 2007 Tromsø International Film Festival: Audience Award
2007 New Orleans Human Rights Film Festival, USA: Best Film
2007 Norwegian Documentary Film Festival Volda: Grand Prix (Flugeprisen)
2007 Intl Festival of Muslim Cinema "Golden Minbar", Russia: Honorary Mention
2007 Nordisk Panorama - 5 Cities Film Festival: Best Nordic Documentary
The Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian, imprisoned for five years despite a jury’s failure to return a single guilty verdict against him, has gone on a hunger strike in Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va. Al-Arian, who has abstained from food and water since March 3, began his hunger strike after being informed he would be called before a third grand jury. He has lost 15 pounds and has been moved to the jail’s medical unit.
“A great nation is ultimately defined and judged by its system of justice,” Al-Arian said in a statement released through his family. “When the system is manipulated by the powerful and tolerates abuses against the minorities or the weak members of society, the government not only loses its moral authority and betrays future generations, but will also be condemned by history.”
The hunger strike is the third by the Palestinian activist, who was to have been released in April and deported. During his first hunger strike, which lasted 140 days, he took liquid nutrients and lost 45 pounds. During his hunger strike last year, which lasted 60 days, he drank only water and lost 55 pounds. Al-Arian is a diabetic.
“We are very worried about his health, but we understand why he’s doing this,” said his daughter, Laila Al-Arian. “The U.S. government, through its vindictive and politically motivated behavior, has given our family no other option.”
The recent documentary “USA vs Al-Arian” detailed the absurdity of the show trial held in Florida and the hollowness of the government’s case against Al-Arian. When the film was awarded Best Nordic Documentary at the Nordic Panorama in Finland the jury wrote: “The film shows precisely how a common man becomes a victim of the situation in the contemporary world, where the Big Brother is watching you even when you´re ordering pizza.”
The decision to call Al-Arian before the grand jury was made although Al-Arian had signed a “no-cooperation” agreement. The agreement stipulated that he would not be required to cooperate with the government in other cases. The government’s attempt to force him to testify, despite the agreement, came a month before his scheduled release. It is seen by his lawyers and his family as an effort by the government to keep the activist in jail indefinitely.
Al-Arian endured a six-month show trial in Florida that saw the government’s case collapse. The Justice Department spent an estimated $50 million and several years investigating and prosecuting Al-Arian. The government called 80 witnesses and subjected the jury to hundreds of hours of often absurd phone transcriptions and recordings made over a 10-year period, which the jury dismissed as “gossip.” Out of the 94 charges made against the four defendants, there were no convictions. Of the 17 charges against Al-Arian—including “conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad’’—the jury acquitted him of eight and was hung on the rest. The jurors disagreed on the remaining charges, with 10 of the 12 jurors favoring his full acquittal. Two others in the case, Ghassan Ballut and Sameeh Hammoudeh, were acquitted of all charges, dealing another body blow to the government’s case.
Following the acquittal, a disaster for the government, especially because then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had announced the indictment, prosecutors threatened to retry Al-Arian. The Palestinian professor, under duress, accepted a plea bargain agreement that would spare him a second trial, saying in his agreement that he had helped people associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad with immigration matters. It was a tepid charge given the high profile of the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the counter-terrorism section of the Justice Department agreed to recommend to the judge the minimum sentence of 46 months. But U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. sentenced Dr. Al-Arian to the maximum 57 months. In referring to Al-Arian’s contention that he had only raised money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s charity for widows and orphans, the judge said acidly to the professor that “your only connection to orphans and widows is that you create them.”