Mitch Perry Report 6.30.14: Sami Al-Arian finally gets his freedom — someplace outside the U.S.


Although the persecution and subsequent prosecution of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian has been a flashpoint in the Tampa Bay area for two decades, even his harshest critics have looked askance at the U.S. Department of Justice's treatment of him in the years since the December 2005 terrorism trial in which a Tampa jury acquitted him on eight counts and deadlocked on nine others.

Al-Arian was supposed to have been deported in 2007 after serving his 57-month prison sentence for pleading guilty to one count of aiding a designated terrorist group. But a strange detour happened along the way. Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., subpoenaed him to testify before a grand jury about Muslim groups in Virginia and their alleged ties to terrorism. Al-Arian said the subpoena was at odds with his plea deal in the Florida case, but prosecutors and the courts did not agree. He spent most of 2007 in jail on a civil contempt citation. In 2008, a grand jury in Alexandria indicted him on two counts of criminal conduct for refusing to testify… and then did nothing for nearly six years as he remained under limited forms of house arrest in Virginia.

But that ended on Friday, when federal prosecutors filed a motion seeking to dismiss the 2008 indictment. Al-Arian is now a free man — but not in the U.S. He will be deported, which is not what his friends and family have hoped for, but was what they expected to happen some seven years ago. 

In a blog post, Al-Arian's Washington D.C.-based attorney, Jonathan Turley, wrote,"This case remains one of the most troubling chapters in this nation’s crackdown after 9-11. Despite the jury verdict and the agreement reached to allow Dr. Al-Arian to leave the country, the Justice Department continued to fight for his incarceration and for a trial in this case. It will remain one of the most disturbing cases of my career in terms of the actions taken by our government. However, despite our often heated hearings in this case, I thank those at the Justice Department who agreed to the dismissal of the indictment. This family has been put through over a decade of grinding, unrelenting litigation. It is time to bring closure to this matter once for all."

In other news...

Meet KC Stark, the man described by his press agent as the 'Steve Jobs of weed.' He sat down with CL's Lauren Prestwood on Friday...

Speaking of weed, Bill Clinton discussed his thoughts about the legalize-pot movement while speaking with Meet The Press' David Gregory yesterday.

On Friday afternoon HART board chair and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez amended comments he made to the Tampa Bay Times last week re his stance on a transit tax referendum in 2016 in Hillsborough County. But he has plenty of of other things to say about its viability that are worth reading.

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