US releases ex-professor Al-Arian after 5 years in custody Joe Shaulis at 9:56 AM ET
[JURIST] US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] has released [advocacy group press release] Arab activist Sami Al-Arian [JURIST news archive] after five years in federal custody. The former University of South Florida (USF) [official website] computer science professor will remain under electronic monitoring pending trial on contempt charges [JURIST report] for refusing to testify before grand juries that were investigating a group of Islamic charities. ICE released al-Arian on Tuesday, the deadline set last week by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema [official profile] for the government to respond to al-Arian's habeas petition by justifying his continued detention. Brinkema granted bail [JURIST report] to Al-Arian last month, finding that he was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, but ICE then took him into custody. The Muslim Public Affairs Council [advocacy website] issued a statement [text] welcoming al-Arian's release, characterizing his case as "an example of what many American Muslims perceived to be numerous post-9/11 political persecutions of individuals using tactics that amount to little more than guilt by association." AP has more. The Tampa Tribune has local coverage.
Al-Arian was arrested in February 2003 [JURIST report] and indicted [PDF text] on charges of supporting terrorism based on comments he made in the wake of 9/11 and his association with an Islamic think tank at USF in the 1990s. In 2005 he was acquitted [JURIST report] on eight of 17 terrorism charges. The next year he pleaded guilty [JURIST report] 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 a 57-month sentence. In granting bail to al-Arian, Brinkema expressed concern that the government was interfering with the plea agreement by preventing his deportation in order to hold the contempt trial. Last year an appeals court upheld [JURIST report] the contempt charges.
Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.