Thank you for your continued support of Tarek and his family. Today was, in many ways, easier than the day we received the verdict. We went in expecting the worst, expecting life without parole. Throughout this trial we saw firsthand the manipulation and lies the government is capable of. We were outraged by the utter unfairness of his conviction. It seemed only fitting that his sentencing would play out in the same manner.
We are relieved to announce that Tarek received a shorter sentence than we expected: 210 months (17.5 years) instead of life without parole. But even still, this is not acceptable. Tarek does not deserve to be in prison for even one day. We will not just wait around idly for the years to pass for Tarek to be free; we will continue to fight, and we implore you to join us.
This isn’t over. But would it have been over if Tarek had received a “time served” sentence and walked out of that courtroom with us today? Even then, we would be compelled to keep fighting. This is bigger than Tarek and it’s bigger than his family; it affects all of you reading this. For there is still no justice for Aafia Siddiqqi and Ziyad Yaghi and Omar Khadr and the Newburgh Four and the Fort Dix Five, and I’m sorry to say the list goes on and will keep going on if we think the fighting here is done. And in case you think you are safe from such morbid overreaches of the government because you don’t have a Mohamed or an Ahmed in your family, I’d like to remind you of the Martin Niemoller poem that starts, “First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist,” and ends “and then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Tarek knows this is bigger than him. As we heard in his speech before the judge, “One of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.”
That’s why he didn’t cooperate with the FBI, even though it meant facing criminal charges. That’s why he refused plea deal after plea deal, which would have brought his prison time down to below 10 years. That’s why he insisted on going to trial, even though he faced being convicted. And that’s why he stood tall and spoke his mind unflinchingly today, even though he risked getting a far longer sentence for not expressing remorse. Tarek expressed to the judge that he will always stand on the side of justice for the oppressed:
“Everything I learned [as a young adult] confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them – regardless of nationality, regardless of religion.”
Tarek showed the world today that he values this stance of solidarity more than a few years of his own freedom. Tarek stands not only for himself, but also for his brothers and sisters everywhere who are fighting oppression that is too heavy to bear alone. Tarek, we stand with you, helping to bear that oppression as well. When we share our struggle, we are never alone.