On April 11, Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian was transferred into ICE custody after completing a sentence on civil contempt citations for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. On April 15, ICE agents transported Al-Arian from the Northern Neck Regional jail in Warsaw, Va., to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Va. Just hours after he arrived at Hampton Roads, jail officials placed Al-Arian on suicide watch in a segregation unit and confiscated all of his belongings, allegedly because of his refusal to eat. Al-Arian had been on hunger strike since March 3, protesting the government’s refusal to release him.
Jail officials told Al-Arian he would only be allowed one telephone call every 15 days, and would not be allowed any attorney calls. Some of these conditions were relaxed after thousands of supporters called the Hampton Roads jail to complain about Al-Arian’s treatment. However, the jail is still keeping Al-Arian in segregation and has not provided him with adequate medical care. (Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace press releases, April 16, 23) Meanwhile, according to news reports, the Justice Department is apparently considering charging Al-Arian with criminal contempt. (St. Petersburg Times, April 23)
On April 21, Al-Arian collapsed and lost consciousness for a few minutes. On April 23, the 52nd day of his hunger strike, Al-Arian began to take a liquid nutritional supplement at the urging of his family, who would like him to regain his strength to be able to travel in the event that he is deported soon and allowed to finally rejoin them, as the government has promised. Concerned people are urged to call ICE Acting Field Office Director Vincent Archibeque in Fairfax, Va., at 703-285-6200 to demand that Al-Arian be treated with dignity and respect, and that the government honor its promise to deport him immediately. (Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, April 23)
From Immigration News Briefs, April 27