Al-Arian pleads guilty to one count - will be deported by Mitch E. Perry04/18/06
A federal judge has set a May first hearing soon to close the case of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian, who will be deported after pleading guilty to providing support to a Palestinian terrorist group.
Documents unsealed in U.S. District Court today provide the details of Sami Al-Arian's secret plea deal, which was first revealed on Friday afternoon.
The former University of South Florida professor pleaded guilty to Count Four of the original indictment against him, which charged that he conspired to "make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad." The federal government designated that group a terrorist organization in 1995.
As part of the agreement, Al-Arian admitted to "filing for immigration benefits for individuals associated with PIJ, hiding the identities of individuals associated with the PIJ, and providing assistance for an individual associated with the PIJ in a United States Court proceeding." The 15-page plea agreement, prosecutors recommend a sentence of 46 months. Al-Alrian has already served 37 monthsâ€¦
Late last Friday, Al-Arianâ€™s wife, Nahla confirmed that â€˜negotiationsâ€™ were still on going with the governmentâ€¦(roll tape#1 o.q.â€?everyone will knowâ€?)
Last December, Al-Arian was acquitted on 8 of the 17 charges that he was charged with back in February of 2003, that he raised money for terrorist groups â€“ specifically, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
But the one count that he admitted guilt to is helping those associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, his brother in law Mazen Al-Jajjar, as well as Bashar Nafi, a British academic , who were part of the original indictment . Ahmed Bedier is the Tampa spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, and the co-host of a public affairs show on WMNF (roll tape#2 o.q.â€?admitting that in the plea dealâ€?)
The original indictment alleged that in 1993, Al-Arian sent four wire transfers of nearly $2,000 each to the relatives of four convicted Islamic Jihad terrorists who had been convicted of the murder of three Israelis.
But critics of Al-Arian insist that his guilty plea verifies that he is acknowledging his association with the Palestinian Islamic Jihadâ€¦Former Justice official John Loftus provides commentary on intelligence issues for a variety of media outlets (roll tape#3 o.q.â€?tough to proveâ€?)
When President Bush makes campaign speeches about how stronge Homeland Defense has been in this country since the 9/11 attacks, he has mentioned cases in various states, like Floridaâ€¦.That has always been a nod to the Al-Arian case, which the Federal Government â€“ under the guise of former Attorney General John Ashcroft â€“ has trumpeted since Al-Arianâ€™s arrest 3 years ago (roll tape#4 o.q.â€? throughout the worldâ€?)
Last December, 2 of Al-Arianâ€™s co-defendents, Ghassan Ballut and Sameeh Hammoude were acquitted of all charges in the case â€“ though Hammoudeh remains in immigration custody, awaiting deportation.
Al-Arian and another defendant, Hatem Fariz, both had other counts against them, and there were reports that the Government was preparing to re-try them this month.
But behind the scenes, Federal authorities had been in negotiations with Al-Arian to get him to admit guilt to just 1 of the counts against him, and then he would be allowed to leave the country. Those discussions had been kept extremely quiet, with the Al-Arian camp concerned that if the story got out, it might be scuttled.
But Friday afternoon, the Associated Press in Washington did break the storyâ€¦..
Al-Arian told the USF Oracle Newspaper in February that he still remains in solitary confinement 23 hours a day at the Orient Road Jail in Tampaâ€¦Before that he was held in a special housing unit at the Coleman Federal Facilityâ€¦.That punishment before and during his trial was remarked upon at the 3rd year anniversary of his detainment, when supporters held a rally in support of himâ€¦This was activist John Arnaldi(roll tape#6 o.q.â€?so why are they doing this??)