Break an Unjust Law when Necessary; Never Commit Treason

[On Thursday, Nov. 8, Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar will be sentenced for refusing to testify before a grand jury and thus acquiesce in an unconscionable effort to use the American justice system into a tool of Israeli occupation.. In Dr. Ashqar’s reply to the government’s sentencing memorandum, which makes the unprecedented request that Dr. Ashqar be sentenced to life in prison, he, through his attorneys, makes the following observations, which we are honored to excerpt as a guest blog.]

If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. – Henry David Thoreau

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The government’s theory in this case and its prosecutions of the Holy Land Foundation and Dr. Sami Al-Arian is not that the Palestinian-defendants were engaged in terrorist attacks or even that these Palestinians supported terrorist attacks. Rather, in all of these cases the government’s theory has been that providing support to the oppressed and powerless Palestinians, in social, charitable, and political contexts, is a form of terrorism because it makes Hamas more popular. The self-described expert, Dr. Levitt, has testified to this theory in all of these cases, arguing not that the defendants directly support terror, but that the defendants make terrorists groups look good by helping the Palestinian people. Now, in the government’s farcical argument for a life sentence, this theory becomes even more attenuated. Dr. Ashqar is a ‘terrorist’ because he refused to testify, allowing other Palestinian-Americans to continue to provide much-needed support to the Palestinian people, which in turn allowed Hamas to gain political leverage with the Palestinian people.

The fact is that Dr. Ashqar’s refusal to testify was a refusal to support the mythology propagated by the government in its conspiracy prosecution, which was designed from its inception to support a bankrupt, racist foreign policy.

There was no choice for Dr. Ashqar when subpoenaed in front of the grand jury. He could either join with his oppressors, reject his countrymen, forsake everything he believes, and never return to his beloved Palestine, or he could be labeled a terrorist. There is a special nobility in such a choice. It is the only decision that a patriot could ever make. It has been suggested over and over again that Dr. Ashqar owed a duty to the United States. This belief is unconscionable in as much as the United States aids and abets Israel’s illegal oppression of 3.8 million people. By this twisted logic, Dr. Ashqar had a duty to betray his country. Instead, he chose his country over his own well-being. If asked to do the same thing about the United States, who in this courtroom would have made a different choice than Abdelhaleem Ashqar? Would Mr. Ferguson be willing to agree to a change of his name in exchange for a betrayal of the United States? How about Mr. Schar or Ms. Hamilton? If faced with the same choice of either breaking a law that requires a betrayal of their beloved country or complying with such an unjust law, I am willing to bet that everyone representing the government would choose the honorable choice and would not betray the United States. Why should Dr. Ashqar’s decision be viewed any differently? For fear of upsetting the United States’ political and strategic ally, Israel? Justice should not be based upon the United States’ foreign policy. Justice should not only be available to the strong and unavailable to the weak. What is it about the Palestinian people that deprives them of their right to fight for their freedom? Must the oppressed always play and bargain for their rights by rules established by the oppressor? By that logic the United States would still be a colony of Great Britain and apartheid would still hold sway in South Africa.

Dr. Ashqar broke a law and willingly accepts his punishment for breaking the law. However, Abdelhaleem Ashqar requests that this Court is mindful, when sentencing him, that to comply with the law would have resulted in a greater injustice against the Palestinian people. Any sentence of Dr. Ashqar that is greater than normally applied to a failure to testify would not only be against the 3553(a) sentencing factors, but would also be contrary to the principles of liberty and justice that this country was founded upon. Thus, Dr. Ashqar suggests to this Court that whatever the correctly calculated guideline range may be, the circumstances of this case are far outside the heartland of the sentencing guidelines. The Court has presided over this trial, has heard all of the evidence, is aware of the jury’s acquittal, is aware of the unusual nature of this case, and probably has a good bearing on the true, loyal, and peaceful nature of Dr. Ashqar and his morally justifiable, yet unlawful reasons for refusing to testify. Dr. Ashqar requests that the Court sentence him accordingly.

[From DR. ASHQAR’S REPLY MEMORANDUM OF LAW AND ARGUMENT, U.S. v. Abdelhaleem Ashqar in the U.S. District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division. #03 CR 978.]

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