Palestinian activist and former university professor Sami Al-Arian was arraigned Monday in U.S. federal court on two counts of criminal contempt for his refusal to testify in a grand jury investigation of a Northern Virginia Muslim think-tank. The indictment is the latest episode of a long, Kafka-esque process that has violated nearly every tenet of Al-Arian’s plea agreement following the end of his first trial in 2005, and kept Al-Arian in prison for over five years. “The government has made a complete mockery of the plea agreement,” Al-Arian’s attorney, Jonathon Turley, told IPS. “Dr. Al-Arian has received zero benefit from his plea agreement…”
Supporters of Al-Arian cited the charges as an attempt by an overzealous Justice Department prosecutor to keep Al-Arian behind bars indefinitely despite an inability to secure a jury conviction. There is no maximum penalty for criminal contempt…The indictment said that Al-Arian had refused to testify in violation of a court order. But Al-Arian’s defence holds that his subpoena was out of line with his original agreement, which included an express promise that Al-Arian did not have to cooperate further with the government.
Disclosure: Laila Al-Arian, Sami Al-Arian’s daughter, is a friend.