April 16, 2008

Yesterday morning, Dr. Sami Al-Arian was transported by immigration agents to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia. Since arriving at the facility, he has been subjected to numerous, shocking abuses, even worse than those he experienced at a detention center in Maryland.

When Dr. Al-Arian arrived at Hampton Roads Jail, he was initially placed in the general population and given a standard green uniform. Hours later, however, he was placed in segregation unit. Officials told him that he was placed on suicide watch because he was not eating. Dr. Al-Arian is on the 45th day of a hunger strike to protest the government’s refusal to honor its agreement and release him.

After placing him on suicide watch, prison guards confiscated all of Dr. Al-Arian’s belongings. His clothing, including undergarments, were taken away, and he was given only a thin hospital gown to wear in the cold prison. Although Dr. Al-Arian suffers from weak eyesight, his eyeglasses were also taken away. His cell contains no bed sheets, blankets or pillows, only a hard metal bed frame beneath a one-inch mattress. Furthermore, guards took his drinking cup needed to drink water, which is critical during his hunger strike. Further, Dr. Al-Arian was also told that he would only be given one telephone call every 15 days, and that he would not be allowed any attorney calls. Even if he were to be given regular calls, a single call from Hampton Roads Regional Jail costs $25.

When Dr. Al-Arian was removed from his cell, he was handcuffed behind his back and held by two guards en route to the medical examination. There, he was examined briefly, not by a doctor, but by a first-year medical student.

Prior to his transfer, Dr. Al-Arian was promised by immigration officials that he would not be subjected to more humiliating and abusive treatment at the new facility. These horrendous conditions reflect a gross negligence on the part of the authorities at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail and a deliberate attempt to break Dr. Al-Arian’s will through this cruel and punitive treatment. By subjecting him to these continuous abuses, they have attacked his basic dignity and jeopardized his health to an alarming degree.


All concerned citizens are requested to contact Hampton Roads Regional Jail and call for Dr. Al-Arian to be treated humanely, and given adequate medical attention. The authorities should be requested to uphold their basic protocol regarding detainees, and not subject Dr. Al-Arian to any punitive treatment. We know that they take these telephone calls very seriously, though they may appear dismissive and at times hostile. The number is: 757-488-7500.