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Al-Arian loses access to prison law library

Sami Al-Arian can have one-on-one access to his recently hired attorneys, but his days in his prison's main law library are over, according to a court order.

Federal Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun has ruled that Al-Arian is allowed contact visits and unmonitored phone calls with his new lawyers, William Moffitt and Linda Moreno.

But now that he has lawyers, Al-Arian does not need special access to the main law library in the federal prison where he's being held, McCoun stated in his order made public Monday.

Al-Arian had represented himself since dismissing his court-appointed attorneys in July. After a fundraising effort by his family and supporters, Al-Arian hired Moffitt and Moreno, who officially signed on to the case on Wednesday.

For months, Al-Arian had complained about conditions at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County, where he remains without bail. He filed several court motions about prison officials opening his mail and limiting his access to writing materials. He also asked for access to the prison's main law library, not just the small library in the unit where he is being held.

"Now that counsel have entered an appearance on Mr. Al-Arian's behalf, it is their responsibility to do the necessary research and file the appropriate pleadings," McCoun wrote. "Absent further showing, the court's Order requiring that Mr. Al-Arian be granted regular access to the main library is rescinded."

Federal agents arrested Al-Arian and three others in February on charges that include conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to murder, maim or injure people on foreign soil, including U.S. citizens.

The 121-page indictment focuses on their suspected roles in supporting, promoting and raising funds for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group considered responsible for more than 100 deaths.

Federal agents taped thousands of hours of telephone conversations over several years while surveilling Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor, and the other men. Most of the conversations are in Arabic.

Federal prosecutors quickly turned over to the defendants taped copies of the 250 or so conversations listed in the indictment, but are releasing thousands of other conversations in batches.

The defendants want to review all the conversations before the January 2005 trial date, saying the ones not listed in the indictment could help their defense. Al-Arian has complained that he is not getting enough time to review some of the taped conversations.

McCoun wrote in his order that the defendants need access to a computer to listen to some of the conversations. He said he has requested that the U.S. Marshal Service and officials at the prison work to find a way for Al-Arian and fellow jailed defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh to spend more time listening to those conversations.

McCoun, however, pointed out that some of the conversations taped later in the investigation can be listened to using an MP3 player, a portable device that can play computerized audio files. The prison has provided Al-Arian and Hammoudeh with an MP3 player in their cell to listen to those conversations, the judge wrote.

"The court expects that (prison) officials will continue to provide these Defendants such (evidence) on a regular and consistent basis and the court will continue to monitor this situation," McCoun wrote.