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Alert Update: USA – Sami Al-Arian high court appeal rejected

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The US Supreme Court has refused to hear Sami Al-Arian's appeal against a contempt charge for refusing to testify before a jury, in spite of a plea agreement allegedly exempting him from such testimony.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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08 October 2008

Alert Update: USA – Sami Al-Arian high court appeal rejected

Contents
1. Summary
2. Background


1. Summary

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear Sami Al-Arian's appeal against a contempt charge brought about upon his refusal to give testimony in front of a grand jury in Virginia. This means Al-Arian is now set to face a pending trial in Virginia for the contempt charge.

Al-Arian's defence argues that a 2006 plea agreement with exempted him from further testimony and cooperation with federal prosecutors. His attorney, Jonathan Turley, said:

"We are obviously disappointed in the failure of the Supreme Court to accept the case. Dr. Al-Arian, however, remains committed to vindicating himself before the trial court and enforcing the plea agreement reached with the government."


2. Background

Dr Sami Al-Arian is a Palestinian peace-activist and former University of South Florida professor who was convicted in 2003 on charges of funding terrorists. His conviction has received much media attention, and has been referred to as a 'federal witch hunt' by some. After a 2005 court win in which a Florida jury rejected federal charges linking Al-Arian to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, his attorneys struck a deal whereat he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to face only deportation.

Dr Al-Arian had spent more than 5 years detained in federal custody, and had been under 23-hour solitary confinement at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Virginia. IHRC wrote to the Pamunkey Regional Jail regarding his 23-hour solitary confinement, given its being considered a violation of the current UN Convention against Torture.

Al-Arian's contempt trial was postponed on 29 August 2008 in order for the Supreme Court to consider his appeal. Now that the appeal has been rejected, Al-Arian is set to stand trial in Virginia facing the contempt charge. On 02 September 2008, Dr Al-Arian was released on bail pending his trial. IHRC welcomed the decision, as a federal judge has stated clearly that Dr Al-Arian posed no danger to anyone, and should be allowed bail until his trial.


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