One of the nicest and kindest human beings passed away on July 12. Meg Laughlin represented the best America has to offer. A serious journalist who dedicated her life to seeking the truth, exposing injustices, and holding the government to account. She was the only person in 2005 – aside from the court teams – to attend every day of my trial for over 6 months. Because she came from out of town and was not exposed to the biases of the case, she was specifically hired from the Miami Herald to cover my trial in Tampa by the St. Petersburg Times. For over a decade, the Times was under tremendous pressure from pro-Israeli groups to change reporters because every time the paper assigned a reporter the coverage was fair and exposed the underhanded tactics and lies of the other side, as well as the political nature of the campaign to demonize our community [she came after reporters Jim Harper (reporting during 1995-1997) and Susan Aschoff (reporting during 1997-2003) were viciously attacked by pro-Israeli groups because of their fair reporting.]
Her exceptional coverage of the trial was a great relief from the incessant attacks, and the lies and deceit by the government and other media outlets. Shortly after the end of the trial, she was the only reporter who was able to reach the jury and confirm that the majority of the jury (10 to 2) were in favor of total acquittal on the deadlocked counts (the distinguishing feature of the two jurors who refused to deliberate the remaining counts was that they were avid readers of the Tampa Tribune, the paper that demonized us for years. Ironically, a decade later the Times would buy out the Tribune and shut it down). Meg was featured in the 2007 award-winning documentary USA vs Al-Arian and freely stated her opinion on how the case lacked any real evidence for the alleged counts.
Years after the Florida trial and the dismissal of the Virginia counts against me, Meg visited me in 2014 in Washington DC. We went to the Native Americans Museum to witness another dark episode for victims of another ethnic cleansing and genocide. Her humanity, kindness, and wisdom were on full display. Meg had a beautiful soul, kind heart, and determined will – a rare combination that lifts up the spirit of mankind and lights the torches of freedom while firmly standing up for justice.
Those who knew her are sad today and will shed a tear. But the love and respect they have for her will bring a smile for knowing her. And her memory will forever endure. May God have mercy on her soul. She will be dearly missed.
Dr. Sami Al-Arian is a Palestinian academic and intellectual. He lived for four decades in the U.S. before relocating to Turkey in 2015. Because of his long activism for the Palestinian cause and defending human and civil rights, he was a political prisoner in the U.S. and spent over a decade in prison and under house arrest until the charges were dropped in 2014.