Free Ali Al-Timimi

August 31, 2008

Jess Ghannam

Filed under: Jess Ghannam — sandboxarea @ 9:18 pm

Former President of the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco

“For a growing number of legal scholars and Islamic community leaders concerned about American courts discriminating against Muslims, Dr. Al-Timimi’s case is a harbinger of how Muslim believers are becoming the target of a new emerging kind of civil rights discrimination”.


Kenneth Anderson

Filed under: Kenneth Anderson — sandboxarea @ 9:18 pm

Professor at Washington College of Law, American University, Washington DC, and a Research Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

“Essentially, I think the US government overreached in its theories against Dr. Al-Timimi to the point of criminalizing speech as such, and I think there are serious First Amendment problems with that.

“I think there were grounds on which he could and should have been convicted for actual direction and participation, rather than speech alone, but the government’s theories went well beyond that point. It is not the conviction as such that disturbs me, but the overreaching government theories that create serious First Amendment issues.

“If you look at how the government presented its case throughout the course of the trial, it did not limit itself by any means to saying, Dr. Al-Timimi was directing his followers to do this or that; the government prosecutors really argued – also argued – that one could not preach, in the abstract, that one should take up arms against the United States. It is what the prosecutors ‘also argued’ that troubles me in this case. If they wanted to establish a strong precedent that you can’t preach violence against the US, they did so – but that is the wrong precedent, historically and legally, under the First Amendment.

“Perhaps there are ways in which these lines can be sorted out on appeal.

“I may as well add that the safety of the First Amendment lies in the hands of conservatives, not liberals. It’s not because conservatives attack the First Amendment and liberals defend it – on the contrary, progressives have long been disenchanted with the First Amendment, because it gets in the way of liberal authoritarianism to impose its standards – on schools, on workplaces, on universities, on churches, and so on – without having to argue and debate them. That disenchantment grows as liberals look with longing to other societies in the world without First Amendment protections and see how much easier it is for liberal elites to control public opinion. So it becomes a special obligation of conservatives and libertarians to be First Amendment purists, proudly and without dilution, protecting even hateful and wicked speech in the way liberals used to, before they discovered their authoritarian streak.”.

David Cole

Filed under: David Cole — sandboxarea @ 9:17 pm

Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center

After the April 2005 sentencing, Professor Cole said that the judement against Dr. Al-Timimi was “overly harsh” and that the US Governement’s case “raised questions about the violation of First Amendment free speech rights”.

Tim Davis

Filed under: Tim Davis — sandboxarea @ 9:16 pm

The Suffocation of Free Speech under the Gravity of Danger of Terrorism

American University, Washington College Of Law

On July 14, 2005, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi was sentenced to life in prison plus 70 years for acts of pure speech.

With the full might of the FBI and the Department of Justice, the same organizations that “dropped the ball on 9/11”, the government descended upon Dr. Al-Timimi like a “pack of wolves on an elk carcass.” The lead prosecutor, Mr. Kromberg, used every opportunity to portray Dr. Al-Timimi as a religious zealot with links to terrorism who ordered his mindless devotees to take up jihad against Unites States soldiers, regardless of the actual truth. Sadly, in the process, the United States First Amendment has taken another beating.

The United States government did not meet its burden of proof and there was a reasonable doubt as to what Dr. Al-Timimi advocated. Furthermore, if Dr. Al-Timimi looses his appeal, the fundamental constitutional right of free speech will take a serious blow.

There is no evidence that Dr. Al-Timimi was the “Virginia Jihad network” ringleader. Mr. Kromberg elicited testimony from the “Virginia Jihad” defendants that Dr. Al-Timimi was well respected and answered many of their questions concerning Islam.

In contrast, Dr. Al-Timimi did not associate with the “Virginia Jihad” defendants, he was not friends with any of them. In fact, other than the September 16th meeting, Dr. Al-Timimi had minimal contact with the “Virginia Jihad” defendants. However, there is abundant testimony that Dr. Al-Timimi answered numerous Islamic permissibility questions, not only from the “Virginia Jihad” defendants but also from any Mosque attendee.

In fact, there is little or no evidence that Al-Timimi directed anyone to do anything. Rather the evidence points to a scholar who at all times was eager to give advice to anyone who would listen. Instead of being a ringleader, Dr. Al-Timimi was a low ranking Muslim scholar who was a messenger between other Muftis and the Muslims at the Mosque.

Dr. Al-Timimi did not cross over the line of speech and commit any overt physical acts of aiding and abetting. Likewise, Dr. Al-Timimi did not aid and abet the “Virginia Jihad” defendants through instructional speech. Accordingly, Dr. Al-Timimi should not be sentenced to life in prison plus 70 years for averring his religious convictions.

(Please note that this is an edited extract. The original source contains the following notice: This working paper is hosted by The Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress) and may not be commercially reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder. Copyright c 2006 by the author.)

Jonathan Turley

Filed under: Jonathan Turley — sandboxarea @ 9:15 pm

Professor at The George Washington University School of Law

Prior to leading Ali’s appeal, Professor Turley commented on Dr. Al-Timimi beliefs on Armageddon and the US Government’s case. In the truest form of defending the US Constitution, Professor Turley said that “it is never about the defendants. It was not about the racist fantasies of Brandenburg. It certainly is not about the apocalyptic fantasies of Al-Timimi. It is ultimately about us and who we are. With Al-Timimi’s conviction, we face that moment of self-definition again as his articles of speech become the test of our own articles of faith”.

Known for exposing state and federal violations of a defendant’s rights in the court room as a means by which the government can coerce a jury, Professor Turley was critical of the Government’s court room conduct. When prosecutors intimidated the jury with one of Dr. Al-Timimi’s writings authored years after Ali’s alleged criminal speech, Professor Turley commented: “The relevance of such statements is questionable, but the potential prejudicial impact could not be more clear”.

August 12, 2008

Elisa F. Kantor

Filed under: Elisa F. Kantor — sandboxarea @ 12:33 am

New Threats, Old Problems: Adhering to Brandenburg’s Imminence Requirement in Terrorism Prosecutions

Of late, several Muslim citizens in the Virginia and DC area were convicted of conspiring to commit terrorist acts against the United States. In these and other similar cases, the government appears to have changed its approach to prosecuting terrorism from one of crime solving (by finding and convicting after the fact) to one of prevention (by finding and convicting before the alleged act occurs).

Most recently, Ali Al-Timimi was sentenced to life in prison because he told a group of Muslim men to go to Afghanistan and fight with terrorist forces following the attacks of September 11. Federal prosecutors alleged that Al-Timimi had incited his listeners to engage in unlawful acts against the United States, and that because he had encouraged the men to train with terrorist forces, he was responsible for their crimes. In order to prosecute Al-Timimi’s speech, the government must satisfy the Supreme Court’s Brandenburg v. Ohio test by proving that the expression was directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and was likely to incite or produce such action.

In Al-Timimi’s case, however, the important requirement of imminence was not met. The men to whom Al-Timimi spoke did not arrive at terrorist training camps until weeks later, demonstrating that Al-Timimi’s speech was not immediate enough to pass the Brandenburg standard. Al-Timimi’s case is therefore troubling as precedent, because it indicates that the government may circumvent the imminence requirement of Brandenburg in the context of domestic terrorism prosecutions.

This Note argues that it is essential to adhere to Brandenburg’s imminence requirement. This Note demonstrates that Al-Timimi’s speech was not imminent under the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, and discusses the reasons why a Muslim imam’s speech must not be prosecuted unless it passes the Brandenburg test. The Note also discusses the larger implications for failing to adhere to the imminence requirement in the war on terror. A strict defense of Brandenburg’s temporal element is essential because will protect the American public from speech that escalates the threat of domestic terrorist activity while guarding speech that deserves to compete in the marketplace of ideas.


George Washington Law Review, Vol. 76, p. 752, 2008 George Washington Law Review, Vol. 3, 2008 ELISA F. KANTOR, George Washington University

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