Safiya Ghori-Ahmad [Government Relations Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council]: "For many American Muslims, the case of Sami Al-Arian has become the most prominent illustration of the Bush administration's post-9/11 political prosecutions.
Sami Al-Arian, a former University of Florida professor, was arrested in 2003 on charges of funding terrorism. In December 2005, the jury acquitted him of 8 of the 17charges brought against him and was hung on the remaining charges. In April 2006, Dr. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a single non-terrorism related count of conspiracy and agreed to be deported.
A central aspect of the plea agreement was an understanding that Dr. Al-Arian would not be subject to further prosecution or called to cooperate with the government on any matter. The plea agreement signed with Florida prosecutors explicitly protected him from cooperating in any additional cases.
Despite Dr. Al-Arian's immunity, federal prosecutors in Virginia sought his testimony for a grand jury investigation and Al-Arian refused to testify. In April 2008, Dr. Al-Arian's sentence ended and while being held in an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) jail, immigration authorities were making preparations for his deportation.
Unfortunately, the Justice Department has recently brought new charges of criminal contempt against Dr. Al-Arian in order to bring him before a grand jury investigating other Muslim organizations. Earlier this week, Dr. Al-Arian was released on bail and will be restricted to home detention while he awaits trial for contempt of court.
With no maximum penalty for criminal contempt, Dr. Al-Arian now hangs in legal purgatory and the Justice Department's witch-hunt continues."
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