Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge sets trial for Sami Al-Arian on criminal contempt charge

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal judge ruled Friday that Sami Al-Arian will stand trial in March on a criminal contempt charge.

The former University of South Florida professor had requested that the charge be dismissed based on "selective prosecution."

But, while U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema agreed with Al-Arian that such prosecutions are rare and that the facts of his case are "absolutely unique," the judge said a jury would have to decide if Al-Arian committed a crime.

According to federal prosecutors in Virginia, the criminal contempt charge stems from Al-Arian's refusal to testify before a grand jury about the actions of a Virginia think tank, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).

Over 16 years ago, the think tank gave $50,000 to WISE (World and Islam Studies Enterprise), a former think tank on Middle Eastern issues at USF run by Al-Arian. Federal prosecutors want Al-Arian to testify about the details of that transaction.

But, according to documents filed by Al-Arian's attorneys, Al-Arian "did cooperate and answer questions on IIIT" for federal prosecutors. This shows, wrote the attorneys, that the Virginia prosecutors are "ultimately not interested in IIIT … but want to revisit the Tampa trial."

The Tampa trial ended in December 2005 when a jury acquitted Al-Arian of eight terrorism charges, some related to the financial transactions of WISE, and deadlocked on nine other charges, 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal.

At the upcoming criminal contempt trial, said the judge, "the jury will have the flesh on the bones of that case" and be given details.

After the Tampa trial, Al-Arian signed a plea agreement, pleading guilty to one count of providing immigration services to associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Brinkema said Friday that Al-Arian believed the plea agreement protected him from further testimony, and the criminal contempt jury will also learn about that.

Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison and was due to be released and deported to Egypt in April 2007. He had been incarcerated for more than two years before the Tampa trial.

But civil contempt charges in Virginia and an immigration order kept him in prison more than a year longer. Then, prosecutors charged him with criminal contempt.

In September, Brinkema released Al-Arian on bond while she waited to see if the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on whether federal prosecutors in Virginia had violated his plea agreement when they called him to testify before a grand jury.

After the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, Brinkema took up the issue of criminal contempt again.

"I can't believe that after all we've been through Sami has to go through another trial," said his wife, Nahla, as she and her husband left the courthouse.

The trial is scheduled for March 9.

Judge sets trial for Sami Al-Arian on criminal contempt charge 01/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 9:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  2. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  3. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  4. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]