Saturday, January 17, 2009
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal judge ruled Friday that Sami Al-Arian will stand trial 0n March 9th 2009 on a criminal contempt charge, he previously pled guility to support of terrorism.
The former University of South Florida professor (and convicted terrorist supporter) 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, (Al-Arian pled guility, because he was guility to support of terrorism. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to Count Four of the indictment against him – a charge of conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad PIJ ).
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 (PIJ).
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.
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