Al-Arian arraigned on contempt charge

06/30/08 Seán Kinane
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Former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian was formally arraigned today in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Thursday Al-Arian was charged with two counts of contempt of court, stemming from his refusal to testify before a Virginia grand jury.

Al-Arian’s daughter, freelance journalist Laila Al-Arian, was at Monday’s arraignment in Alexandria, and said the judge is considering releasing Dr. Al-Arian on bond while he is awaiting trial on contempt charges.

Laila Al-Arian said her father was transferred Monday out of the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sami Al-Arian had been in ICE custody since he finished serving his sentence more than two months ago. He was awaiting deportation to Egypt.

Temple Terrace resident Melva Underbakke, a member of Friends of Human Rights, drove to Virginia to attend Monday’s hearing. Full disclosure: this reporter is a former member of Friends of Human Rights. Underbakke said that Sami Al-Arian looked like he still has not fully recovered from his two-month hunger strike earlier this year.

The judge at Monday afternoon’s hearing was Leonie M. Brinkema. She is a Bill Clinton appointee and presided over the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. As she sentenced him to life in prison, Brinkema told Moussaoui, “You came here to be a martyr and die in a great big bang of glory, but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper.” Underbakke said the judge seemed to be thoughtfully considering whether to release Al-Arian on bond.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney who called Dr. Al-Arian to testify before the grand jury, and who signed the recent indictment is Gordon Kromberg. He has been accused by many attorneys of having a bias against their Muslim clients. Underbakke said Kromberg argued in court on Monday against granting Sami Al-Arian bond.

Laila Al-Arian said she hopes the trial will be fair.

The contempt of court trial of Sami Al-Arian will begin Aug. 13 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Free Sami Al-Arian

Leonie M. Brinkema, Judge, U. S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

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