AL-ARIAN CO-DEFENDANT SENTENCED TO 37 MONTHS By Roxanne Escobales

07/25/06

The final chapter in the Sami al-Arian case closed today in downtown Tampa with the sentencing of Hatem Fariz. Fariz was one of three Palestinians indicted alongside al-Arian on terrorism charges, and he was the last to receive a sentence.

US Circuit Court Judge James S Moody sentenced Fariz to 37 months in prison, the minimum allowed for the charge, and he will have to serve three years of probation after his release. He has already served two months, which will be applied to his sentence.

The US prosecutor, Terry Zitek, said in court that the government had to be realistic about what it expect with a plea agreement, and that the sentence was an adequate one. Outside the federal courthouse after the hearing, Zitek said he was satisified with the sentence.

ACT: Zitek o.q “justice was done�

Hatem Fariz, his family and his lawyer refused to comment on the outcome. This may be due to an ongoing case involving food stamp fraud he still faces in Chicago.

The jury in all four cases relating to Sami al-Arian did not return a single guilty verdict to 61 counts and remained deadlocked on the rest. Fariz was originally charged with 33 terrorism-related counts.

In order to avoid a re-trial, Fariz pleaded guilty to one count of making material contributions and sending funds to a designated terrorist group. That group is Elehssan, a humanitarian organization that the US government added to its list of designated terrorist groups a month before the trial started. Elehssan has connections with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, or the P-I-J, an organization that has its origins in humanitarian work.

Fariz’s former lawyer, Kevin Beck, told Rob Lorei earlier today on WMNF’s Radioactivity program about the connections between Fariz and Elehssan.

ACT:

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or P-I-J, also started as a non-violent organization, says John Sugg. Sugg is a journalist formerly of the Weekly Planet in Tampa and now based at its sister paper Creative Loafing in Atlanta. He has been following the Palestinian terrorism related cases in Tampa for over ten years.

ACT: PIJ o.q. in the mid 1990s

Sugg says the government went on a wild goose chase and in doing so misspent too much time and taxpayers’ dollars for what amounted to a hollow victory with two of the four defendants negotiating plea deals.

ACT: missed mohammed atta, gov’t looks like keystone kops, vengeance sentences

Ahmed Bedier agrees. He is a director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and also a co-host of True Talk on WMNF. Earlier today on WMNF;s Radioactivity program he told Rob Lorei that the government’s case was flimsy to begin with, which is reflected in Fariz receiving the minimum sentence.

ACT: o.q. “well, he played a minimum role�

Judge Moody granted a couple of requests made by Fariz. He recommended that Fariz be sent to Coleman federal prison in Sumter County north of Tampa to be close to his family. And he allowed Fariz to voluntarily surrender himself to federal authorities.

The 33-year-old Fariz, who has three children with his wife, will find out in a couple of weeks in which prison he will serve his sentence.

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