SAMI AL-ARIAN - Kristen Friend-Weaver06/05/03
Judge James Moody told lawyers for former USF professor Sami al Arian this morning that the trial for their client and his co-defenders will take place in January of 2005. Al Arian has been imprisoned since February of this year when he and three other men were arrested for terrorist related offenses, and his attorneys had hoped to begin his trial this summer. WMNFÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Kristen Friend-Weaver has moreÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Lawyers for Al Arian argued that since their client had not waived his right to a speedy trial, there should be no continuance of any sort in his case. However, attorneys for the three other defendants said that they needed more time to listen to the nearly 21,000 hours of audio tape before they could prepare an effective defense. Danny Hernandez, who is representing one of the men accused in the indictment with Al Arian, believes that even by 2005 they will not be able to sort through all of the evidence against his client. He says that although his client wishes to be out of prison as soon as possible, he recognizes the need for more timeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
However, this view is not shared by Al Arian, his attorneys or his family. Speaking on behalf of Al Arian, his lawyers said that they believe the government would be equally unprepared if the case were to go to trial in a month. Because of this, they believe Al Arian would actually benefit from a speedy trial. Attorney Frank Lauderbach said that by giving the prosecution another year and a half to prepare their case, the judge was once again favoring the prosecutionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Al ArianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife Nala also spoke on behalf of her husband. She said that she believed a grave injustice had been committed by the judge with this decisionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
She said also that she believes this decision is reflective of a wider problem. She said that the government has given itself too much power in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and that not enough people are protesting this situationÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Al Arian himself was not present at the proceedings. He was supposed to attend via videoconference, but he argued that this would violate his attorney client privilege. He said that a videoconference would not allow him to have private conversation with is lawyers.
Al ArianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense team claims that they have encountered difficulties having any private conversation with their client since his arrest. They told reporters that even the transmissions from videoconferences with Al Arian are routed through Washington. Attorneys for Al Arian have also been put in the position that if they accept classified clearance to look at some of the evidence against him, they will then be violating the law if they discuss this evidence with their client. Attorney Jeff Brown said that he had never experienced such restrictions beforeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Although Al Arian and his attorneys have thousands of hours of tape to review, there are still thousands of hours that remain classified. And, they are still attempting to get these recordings declassified. Brown says that at this time they are in the position that the prosecution is dictating what evidence is relevant to their case. He says that although much of the classified recordings may be irrelevant, it is up to the defense to come to that conclusion after reviewing the tapes themselvesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Attorney Frank Lauderbach, who is also defending Al Arian, agreed. He said that it is easy to pull a few negative statements from 21,000 hours of tape, but that these statements must be put in context. He said that unfortunately, the defense is unable to do this because much of the context remains classified. Lauderbach said that he is afraid any beneficial statements made by Al Arian may never be heardÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Attorneys for Al Arian intend to contest the decision to set his court date in 2005 as soon as possible. They hope that he may still go to trial within a few months. For WMNF news, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Kristen Friend-Weaver.