A federal judge in Virginia has indicated that she wants to review the grand jury record that led to criminal contempt charges of a Palestinian Arab activist and former college professor, Sami Al-Arian.
The order by Judge Leonie Brinkema of U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., may be nothing more than a signal that she is reading up on the facts of the case before Al-Arian's trial, which is set to begin in two weeks. Or it could be a sign that she is giving considerable weight to Al-Arian's argument that he is being singled out for prosecution because prosecutors are sore that they failed to convict him of terrorism-related charges at a trial in Florida in 2005.
In an order issued recently, Judge Brinkema instructed federal prosecutors to provide to her, in addition to relevant grand jury transcripts, a list of any other similar criminal contempt cases brought by prosecutors in her district.
The current contempt charges faced by Al-Arian, who previously has pleaded guilty to assisting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, relate to his refusal to testify before two grand juries investigating a web of nonprofit Muslim groups connected to a Herndon, Va.-based think tank, the International Institute for Islamic Thought.