Al-Arian held in contempt of court; now on hunger strike by Mitch E. Perry

WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

Sami Al-Arian has begun a hunger strike after being held in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia.

The group the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace issued a press release today saying Al-Arian was held in contempt yesterday and has started his second hunger strike to protest “continued government harassment

The former USF Professor pleaded guilty last April to providing support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization designated by the U.S. Government as a terrorist group in the mid 1990’s.

At that time, Federal Judge James Moody sentenced Al- Arian to 57 months in federal prison, 11 months longer than recommended by prosecutors in the plea deal. His attorney say that, had he received the recommended sentence, he would have been deported last June.

The federal Bureau of Prisons now calculates Al- Arian’s projected release date as April 13th. But that release date can now be extended by as long as a year and a half because of the contempt finding in Virginia.  That news is a further blow to the Al-Arian family.  Sami Al-Arian’s wife is Nahla Al-Arian (roll tape#1 o.q.”I don’t know how to explain it”)    

According to the press release issued by the group of Al-Arian supports, Al-Arian spoke to a Federal Judge Monday which the former college professor complained of his prison conditions. He claimed he had to share his food with rats and roaches and was forced to wear dirty and inadequate clothing.  

After spending a few minutes describing his dire conditions, the press release says that the Judge interrupted Al-Arian, saying that he should not be harassed but that as a Judge he had control over what happened in the prisons.

During his 2005 trial on terrorism charges,  the government presented evidence that Al- Arian’s think tank, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise or WISE, received funding from the International Institute of Islamic Thought, based in Herndon, Virgnia.  The group’s offices were raided in 2002 as part of the investigation into WISE.

At the time of Al- Arian’s plea agreement, his attorneys stressed Al- Arian would not cooperate with the government.

But despite that and other claims, the Government now is compelling Al-Arian to testify in that trial.

But Al-Arian refuses to.  His wife, Nahla, claims that part of the reason is that he does not trust the prosecutor in this case, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Gordon Krumberg.    (roll tape#2 o.q.”a schill for the government”)

In the meantime, Al-Arian has filed an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of an order that says his plea agreement in Tampa does not protect him from having to testify in Virginia.

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