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Federal appeals court affirms civil contempt ruling against al-Arian

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] affirmed a civil contempt ruling [JURIST report] against former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] Friday, rejecting al-Arian's argument that his plea agreement [text, PDF] exempted him from testifying before a Virginia grand jury. Under the agreement, al-Arian pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad [CDI backgrounder] in violation of US law and agreed to be deported after serving his sentence. US District Judge James S. Moody sentenced al-Arian to an additional 18 months in prison for civil contempt. Al-Arian's sentence will be reviewed every six months and could be extended by a judge until he agrees to testify before the grand jury.

On Friday, al-Arian ended his water-only fast [press release], which had began on January 22. Al-Arian's wife told reporters Friday that he had lost about 53 pounds and was physically too weak to walk. Al-Arian was acquitted [JURIST report] in late 2005 of eight of the 17 terrorism-related charges with which he had been accused and the federal jurors could not reach an unanimous verdict on the rest. The outcome dealt a substantial blow to the Bush administration [JURIST report], which had heralded the trial as a triumph for the Patriot Act. AP has more.

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