U.S. DISTRICT Judge James Moody is doing everything in his power to
prolong the suffering of former Unviersity of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian.
Last month, after 38 months unjustly imprisoned, Al-Arian reached a plea agreement
with federal prosecutors. Al-Arian was arrested in February 2003, along with
several codefendants, on charges that included racketeering, conspiracy and
materially aiding “terrorists” by using an academic think tank,
a Muslim school and a charity as a cover for raising money for the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
After a six-month-long trial, a jury acquitted Al-Arian in December of eight
of 17 charges against him, including the most serious ones.
But the witch-hunt wasn’t over. After the verdict, Al-Arian was kept
in prison for months while the government considered whether to retry him.
In order to end his ordeal and be reunited with his family, Al-Arian agreed
last month to plead guilty to a single count of the most minor charge--conspiracy
to “make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for
the benefit of” the PIJ.
In exchange, prosecutors recommended that Al-Arian be given a sentence of 46
months--and then be deported. That would have left Al-Arian to serve a maximum
of eight more months before being thrown out of the country.
But the deal was too lenient for Moody, who instead sentenced Al-Arian to the
maximum possible sentence on the charge. Al-Arian will now have to serve as
much as 18 more months in prison.
In a statement during the sentencing, Moody claimed that Al-Arian was guilty
of terrorism, charging that he was “a leader of the PIJ" and had
encouraged suicide bombings--a charge rejected by the jury. “Your children
attend the finest universities this country has to offer while you raise money
to blow up the children of others,” Moody said. “You are indeed
a master manipulator.”
As the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace noted, “None of [Moody’s]
accusations, which were unequivocally rejected by the jury, appear anywhere
in the actual plea agreement for which Dr. Al-Arian was being sentenced, or
in the pre-sentencing report issued by a probation officer. He regurgitated
long-disproven accusations by the prosecution and even rehashed a charge by
a previously discredited FBI informant. During the course of his tirade, Moody
resorted to name-calling and personal insults...
“On a day when all sides expected a swift and final resolution to this
painful chapter, the judge ensured Dr. Al-Arian’s and his family’s
continued suffering and sparked outrage by friends, colleagues and supporters.
Following the vindictive display, many experienced lawyers and legal experts
said they had never seen a judge carry himself in such an unscrupulous manner.”