(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/14/07) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed a federal judge’s decision to lift civil contempt charges against Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who has been serving time for refusing to testify before a grand jury.
SEE: Judge Drops Al-Arian’s Contempt Charge (Tampa Tribune)
Civil contempt charges against Al-Arian were dropped when the grand jury he was subpoenaed to testify before expired. Prosecutors could seek additional contempt charges and jail time when a new grand jury is convened in January.
SEE: Judge Lifts Contempt Order Against Former Professor Sami al-Arian (AP)
In 2005, a Florida jury rejected federal charges that Al-Arian operated a cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian later pleaded guilty to one non-violent offense and was scheduled for release and deportation in April 2007.
SEE: No Guilty Verdicts in Al-Arian Trial (Tampa Tribune)
Al-Arian’s attorneys say the plea agreement freed him from further cooperation with the government, yet the Justice Department has twice attempted to force him to testify before a grand jury. When he refused, he was charged with civil contempt and jailed. Observers say the government’s actions amount to a form of harassment.
Because of federal rules that prohibit time served for contempt charges from counting toward the completion of another sentence, Al-Arian is now serving the remaining 115 days of his original five-year sentence.
“We welcome the judge’s decision to drop the contempt charges and hope the coming months will bring the justice that is so long overdue to Dr. Al-Arian and his family,” said CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier. “We continue to appeal to the Department of Justice to end Dr. Al-Arian’s suffering by honoring its original plea agreement.”
The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace is calling on all of Al-Arian’s supporters to continue to work for Al-Arian’s freedom by writing to Attorney General Mukasey and the House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairs to urge Al-Arian’s release after the remainder of his original prison term is served.
Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
(202) 307-6777 Fax
House Judiciary Chair:
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-0072 Fax
Senate Judiciary Chair:
Senator Patrick Leahy
433 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 33 offices, chapters and affiliates nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR Media Relations Director Ahmed Rehab, Tel: 202-870-0166, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, Tel: 202-341-4171, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier, Tel: 813-731-9506, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org