Details of Sami Al-Arian’s plea agreement emerged Monday after a federal judge unsealed documents related to hearings held last week out of public view.
In it, the fired University of South Florida professor admits being a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and helping others associated with the terrorist group — including his deported brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar — in immigration matters and lying to conceal their ties.
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.” In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped eight outstanding terrorism-related charges on which jurors deadlocked during a six-month trial.
Prosecutors also agreed to recommend that immigration officials “expedite” Al-Arian’s expulsion after his sentencing. His family has previously said their first stop may be Egypt before they try to begin anew in the Palestinian territories.
Department of Justice officials on Monday praised the guilty plea as vindication of their anti-terrorism policies, while Al-Arian’s supporters sought to distance the professor from the more serious terrorism charges he once faced.
“We have a responsibility not to allow our nation to be a safe haven for those who provide assistance to the activity of terrorists,” U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said.
Ahmed Bedier, a Tampa-based spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the “plea has nothing to do with violence, and it has nothing to do with financing terrorism.”