Sami Al-Arian


Sami Al-Arian

Sami Amin Al-Arian (Arabic: سامي العريان) (b. January 14, 1958 in Kuwait) is a Palestinian immigrant to the United States convicted in that country of conspiracy to help Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Federal authorities arrested Al-Arian, a professor of computer engineering, at his workplace, the University of South Florida, in 2003 on charges of funding terrorists. A jury acquitted him on eight charges and deadlocked on the remaining nine of the 17 charges against him in December 2005 after a six month trial with three codefendants. On April 14, 2006 Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to provide services to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (count 4 of the original indictment.) He also agreed that the government would deport him at the conclusion of his sentence. In return, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining eight charges against him. Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison and given credit for time served. He was to serve the balance of 19 months and then be deported. On September 2, 2008, Dr. Al-Arian was released from detention on bond by Federal Judge Brinkema. [ [http://www.kabobfest.com/2008/09/breaking-sami-al-arian-released-on-bond.html BREAKING: Sami Al-Arian Released on Bond] ] Dr. Al-Arian will remain under house arrest as he awaits trial on the contempt charge.

While serving the 19 month sentence, an additional sentence of 14 months was imposed on him for civil contempt of court for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating former associates in Herndon, Virginia. The new sentence, which was to be consecutive to the criminal sentence, was voided in December 2007 when a federal judge voided the civil contempt charge. However, in March 2008, the Justice Department subpoenaed Al-Arian to testify before another grand jury. He has refused to testify; prosecutors charged him with criminal contempt in June 2008. [ [http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/mar/04/me-al-arian-gets-federal-subpoena/ Al-Arian Gets Federal Subpoena] , Elaine Silvestrini, March 4, 2008. ] [ [http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/jun/30/al-arian-arraigned-contempt-charges/] ]

Biography

Al-Arian was born in Kuwait. He emigrated with his family to Egypt in 1966, and traveled to the United States in 1975 at the age of 17 to attend university.cite web |url=http://www.siteinstitute.org/bin/articles.cgi?ID=news5203&Category=news&Subcategory=0 |title=Sami Al-Arian Fact Sheet |publisher=SITE Institute |date=February 20, 2003] He obtained his Bachelor's Degree, graduating with honors in 1978 with a major in Electrical Engineering, and completed his Master's Degree and Ph.D. in computer engineering in 1980 and 1985 respectively. In 1986, he was hired as a professor in the Computer Sciences Department at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Dr. Al-Arian is married to Nahla Al-Arian and has five children, including Abdullah Al-Arian. Abdullah Al-Arian was the subject of national media attention when he was escorted out of the White House by the Secret Service in June, 2001 while attending a meeting of Islamic leaders.cite news
title = Intern's removal prompts Bush apology
work = United Press International
date = June 29, 2001
accessdate = 2007-03-25
] At the time, the younger Al-Arian was an intern for U.S. Rep. David E. Bonior.

Al-Arian played a prominent role in establishing a number of Arab and Islamic institutions in the United States during his residency there. These include the Arab Muslim Youth League in 1977, the Islamic Community Center in Tampa, and the Florida Islamic Academy, which is an Islamic school for students in Tampa and its suburbs. He was also imam of his mosque. He also cofounded the Islamic Association for Palestine, an organization linked to Hamas. Its daughter organization is the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which was the largest Islamic charity in the United States before it was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU. It was formerly known as the Occupied Land Fund. [http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/sdn/t11sdn.pdf] Its assets were frozen by the European Union [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00800084.pdf 2005 EU list] of banned individuals and groups] and the U.S., and the U.S. government shut it down for allegedly funding the Islamist Palestinian guerilla organization and political party, Hamas.

Al-Arian is considered to have been among the most active lecturers in North America in the 1980s and 1990s on the subjects of the Palestinian cause, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the relationship between Islam and the West. He helped to found the World Islamic Study Enterprise (WISE) and the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), also known as the Islamic Concern Project, in 1990. Over a period of five years, WISE and ICP issued 20 volumes and several books, as well as sponsoring several conferences.

Al-Arian was also involved in U.S. national politics, having met with then candidate George W. Bush at a campaign event in Florida in March 2000 where Bush and his wife, Laura, posed for a photo with Al-Arian and his family members.cite news
last = Isikoff
first = Michael
coauthors =
title = Hiding in Plain Sight: Did a Muslim professor use activism as a cloak for terror?
work = Newsweek
page = 27
date = March 3, 2003
accessdate = 2007-03-25
] Al-Arian later claimed to have spoken to Bush about the government use of "secret evidence" in deportation proceedings against accused terrorists. When Bush subsequently brought up the issue in a debate with Al Gore, Al-Arian was reportedly "thrilled--and began registering local Muslims for the Republican Party and praising Bush at local mosques." He also lobbied Congress on civil liberties matters, contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of influential members of Congress, and renounced violence during television appearances. In June, 2001, Al-Arian joined 150 Muslim-American activists in a White House briefing with Karl Rove.

His eldest daughter, Laila Al-Arian, is a free-lance journalist living in New York.

Trial

Al-Arian's was tried with codefendants Ghassan Ballut, Hatim Fariz and Sameeh Hammoudeh in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, beginning in June 2005.cite news |first= Michael |last= Fechter |title= Witness: Islamic Jihad Planned Strike In U.S. |url= http://www.tampatrib.com/FloridaMetro/MGBHQF7YQCE.html |work= Tampa Bay Tribune |publisher= Media General Inc. |date= August 24, 2005 |accessdate= 2007-03-26 ] At trial, FBI agent Kerry Myers testified that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had planned an attack inside the United States but said all information about the plot was classified and he could not discuss it. Under cross-examination, Myers admitted that Palestinian Islamic Jihad had never carried out an attack outside Israel and the "occupied territories." Agent Myers also testified that during its 10-year investigation of Al-Arian and his three co-defendants, the FBI intercepted 472,239 telephone calls on 18 tapped lines Furthermore, the conversations occurred before Palestinian Islamic Jihad was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1995. [ [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/23/Hillsborough/In_his_plea_deal__wha.shtml Hillsborough: ] ] The six-month trial featured more than 80 witnesses and 400 transcripts of intercepted phone conversations and faxes.cite news
first = Meg
last = Laughlin
coauthors = Jennifer Liberto and Justin George
title = 8 times, Al-Arian hears 'Not guilty'
url = http://www.sptimes.com/2005/12/07/Tampabay/8_times__Al_Arian_hea.shtml
work = St. Petersburg Times
date = December 7, 2005
accessdate = 2007-03-26
] At the end of the prosecution's case, Al-Arian's attorneys rested without offering a defense. On December 6, 2005, after 13 days of deliberations, the jury acquitted him on eight of 17 counts.

Plea agreement

On March 2, 2006, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy "to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist ["sic"] , in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371." [http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/Al-Arian/8-03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM/docs/2929176/0.pdf] In return, the U.S. Attorney agreed to dismiss the other eight remaining charges in the superseding indictment, agreed not to charge Al-Arian with any other crimes, entered no recommendation of a fine, and recommended "that the defendant receive a sentence at the low end of the applicable guideline." [http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/Al-Arian/8-03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM/docs/2929176/0.pdf] As part of the deal, Al-Arian agreed to expedited deportation. [http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/Al-Arian/8-03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM/docs/2929176/0.pdf] The plea agreement was unsealed and accepted by Judge James S. Moody on April 17, 2006. [http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/Al-Arian/8-03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM/DocketSheet.html] Al-Arian's sentencing was scheduled for May 1, 2006. [http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/Al-Arian/8-03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM/DocketSheet.html] Al-Arian remained in custody pending his sentencing and deportation.

The deal came after 11 years of FBI investigations, wiretaps and searches, three years of trial preparation by federal prosecutors and a six-month trial, during which time Al-Arian has spent more than three years in jail, most of it in solitary confinement. [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/24/Hillsborough/Plea_deal_overcame_th.shtml]

At the plea agreement hearing, U.S. Magistrate Thomas B. McCoun said, "... if you're satisfied you're guilty or you believe it's in your best interest to plead guilty ... let me know that."Al-Arian replied, "I believe it's in my best interest to enter a plea." [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/24/Hillsborough/Plea_deal_overcame_th.shtml]

Al-Arian admitted that he raised money for the Islamic Jihad and conspired to hide the identities of other members of the terrorist organization, including his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar. He also admitted knowing "that the PIJ achieved its objectives by, among other means, acts of violence." Elaine Silvestrini, [http://www.defenddemocracy.org/in_the_media/in_the_media_show.htm?doc_id=367467 "Al-Arian Admits His Role In Jihad"] , "Tampa Tribune", April 18, 2006]

For its part, the government acknowledged that Al-Arian's activities were nonviolent and that there were no victims to the charge in the plea agreement. Later that day, supporters of Al-Arian stated that the agreement was reached in part to end the suffering of the family and to reunite them in freedom. [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/05/01/State/Al_Arian_gets_18_more.shtml] [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/18/Tampabay/Al_Arian_s_plea_ends_.shtml]

Sentencing

U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced al-Arian to the maximum 57 months in prison and gave him credit for time served. He will serve the balance of 19 months and then be deported, prosecutors said. In his ruling, Moody harshly criticized al-Arian for doing nothing to stop bombings perpetrated by Islamic Jihad. "You lifted not one finger. To the contrary, you laughed when you heard of the bombings," he said. "You are a master manipulator. The evidence is clear in this case. You were a leader of the PIJ." [ [http://news.oneindia.in/2006/05/01/ex-professor-gets-over-4-years-in-florida-jihad-case-1146512148.html "Ex-professor gets over 4 years in Florida Jihad case"] , Reuters, May 1, 2006]

Grand jury subpoena and hunger strike

Al-Arian has recently refused to testify to a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, in an investigation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought's alleged financing of terror because he believes, "his life would be in danger if he testified." [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/13/AR2006111301205.html Witness Is Silent in Terror Probe: Ex-Professor Says Grand Jury Testimony Would Endanger Him.] "Washington Post". November 14, 2006.] Further, Al-Arian claims he has no information that could further the investigation and his attorneys argued that the grand jury subpoena violates Al-Arian's plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors. In a verbal agreement that appears in court transcripts, federal prosecutors agreed that Al-Arian would not have to testify in Virginia. [http://www.sptimes.com/2007/03/20/Hillsborough/Gaunt_Al_Arian_shocks.shtml Gaunt Al-Arian shocks family] by Meg Laughlin. "St. Petersburg Times". March 20, 2007.] These arguments were rejected by a federal judge in Florida and Al-Arian (who is diabetic) began a 60-day hunger strike on January 22, 2007, to "protest continued government harassment." [ [http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070217/NEWS/702170359/-1/State Family says inmate's hunger strike not near end.] "Wilmington Star" (NC). February 17, 2007.] As of March 20, 2007, Al-Arian, who is 6 feet tall, had gone from 202 to 149 pounds. In March 2008 he began another hunger strike, again to protest what he called government harassment. He ended the strike two months later. [ [http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/21/al_arian_enters_19th_day_of Democracy Now! | Al-Arian Enters 19th Day of Hunger Strike in Protest of "Government Harassment" ] ]

Film

"USA vs. Al-Arian" is the 2007 award winning documentary film by Norwegian director Line Halvorsen about Al-Arian's trial.

References

External links

* [http://www.sptimes.com/2003/02/21/TampaBay/Sami_Al_Arian__in_his.shtml Sami Al-Arian, in his words]
* [http://www.freesamialarian.com/home.htm Free Sami Al-Arian Site]
* [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,61096,00.html FOX News transcript of O'Reilly interview] - September 26 2001
* [http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2003/February/03_crm_099.htm US Department of Justice press release regarding arrest] - February 20 2003
* [http://www.usf.edu/News/2001/arianindex.htm USF'S Official Al-Arian Case News Archive]
* [http://www.tampatrib.com/MGA1ZISBT9D.html Judge Tosses USF Suit Against Al-Arian] - Ben Feller, The Tampa Tribune, December 17 2002
* [http://www.sptimes.com/2003/01/07/TampaBay/Al_Arian_demands_USF_.shtml Al-Arian Demands USF Restore his Standing] - Anita Kumar, The St. Petersburg Times, January 7 2003
* [http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/news/breaking_news/11686584.htm Jury selected for ex-professor] - May 16 2005
* [http://www.sptimes.com/2005/webspecials05/al-arian/index.shtml Ongoing trial coverage from the St. Petersburg Times]
*cite web | title=The Sami Al-Arian Case: In his plea deal, what did Sami Al-Arian admit to? | work=St. Petersburg Times | url=http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/23/Hillsborough/In_his_plea_deal__wha.shtml | accessmonthday=April 25 | accessyear=2006
* [http://www.washington-report.org/archives/July_2006/0607032.html Two Views: Sami Al-Arian’s Plea “Bargain”] - Melva Underbakke and Paul Findley, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2006
*cite web | title=Plea Agreement re: count(s) 4 of the Superseding Indictment as to Sami Amin Al-Arian | work=U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida (Tampa), Criminal Docket for Case#: 8:03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM-ALL | url=http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/Al-Arian/8-03-cr-00077-JSM-TBM/docs/2929176/0.pdf | accessmonthday=April 25 | accessyear=2006
* [http://news.tbo.com/news/MGBQLARQRFE.html Al-Arian Likened To Don In Mafia] by Micheal Fecter, published in the Tampa Tribune November 8, 2005
*cite web | title=Plea deal overcame the discord | work=St. Petersburg Times | url=http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/24/Hillsborough/Plea_deal_overcame_th.shtml | accessmonthday=April 25 | accessyear=2006
* "USA vs. Al-Arian" official site in [http://www.usavsalarian.com/ English] and [http://www.usamotalarian.no Norwegian] .


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