Al-Arian finally closer to freedom?

07/11/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Yesterday, a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, order Sami Al-Arian released on his criminal contempt charges, but refused to block immigration authorities from detaining him before he is to be deported.

The U.S. government agreed to "expeditiously" deport Al-Arian in 2006, once he finished serving his criminal sentence in a terrorism support case. He was arrested in 2003.

But over the past couple of years, as he served his time for pleading guilty to one charge of materially supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad , AL-Arian was called to appear before grand juries in Virginia investigating another Islamic think tank.

Al-Arian has refused to testify, saying that his plea agreement precluded the government from forcing his cooperation. But two appeals courts rejected that argument, and Al-Arian has served more than a year in jail for civil contempt for defying those grand juries.

Josh Gerstein, a reporter for the New York Sun, told WMNF’s True Talk host Ahmed Bedier that Al-Arian has given testimony in the Virginia case.

In December 2005, a Tampa jury found Al-Arian not guilty on eight of 17 counts, including conspiracy to maim or murder. The jury deadlocked on nine other counts. In April 2006, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide services to the PIJ.

Tampa Attorney Linda Moreno defended Al-Arian his in 2005 federal terrorism trial in Tampa. She said that when she hammered out a plea agreement with Judge James Moody and federal prosecutors in April 2006, they were aware of what she called the "overzealous" reputation of Gordon Kromberg, the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, when it came to handling cases involving Muslims and Arabs. Moreno said her legal team put in the plea agreement a promise that Al-Arian would not be further prosecuted in the Tampa case.

In his condition of release, Al-Arian has to post $340,000 of his retirement pension. Once he posts bail, Judge Brinkema says he must be released into the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Up next are pretrial motions for the criminal contempt charge, scheduled for August 13.

Attorney Linda Moreno says there will be a number of motions challenging Al-Arian’s continuing detention.

Al-Arian’s wife Nahla, is living in Cairo, Egypt. If Sami Al-Arian is deported soon, it is expected he would reunite with her and their children there.

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