directed by Line Halvorsen
”USA vs AL-ARIAN” is an intimate family portrait that documents the American-Muslim family Al-Arian’s desperate attempt to fight terrorism charges leveled by the US Government.
In February 2003, university professor and pro-Palestinian civil rights activist Sami Al-Arian was arrested in Tampa, Florida, charged with providing material support to a terror organization. For two-and-a-half years he was held in solitary confinement, denied basic privileges and given limited access to his attorneys. While the Bush administration considered this a landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism, Dr. Sami Al-Arian claims he was targeted in an attempt to silence his political views.
The film follows Sami Al-Arian’s wife Nahla and their five children throughout his 6 month-long trial. It is an intimate family portrait that documents the strain brought on by the trial, a battle waged both in court and in the media. In the film a tight-knit family unravels before our very eyes as trial preparations, strategy and spin consume their lives. This is a nightmare come to life, as a man is prosecuted for his beliefs rather than his actions.
The film raises questions on whether it is possible for a man like Sami Al-Arian to receive a fair trial in the United States given the current hostile environment against Muslims and the strong US support of Israel. It presents democracy in a new light in a post-9/11 culture of fear, where “security measures” trump free speech and punishment is meted out in the name of protection.