Sami Al-Arian could be back in a federal courtroom within weeks to face criminal contempt charges after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up his appeal that claimed federal prosecutors have violated a 2006 plea agreement.
The court announced without comment Monday that it would not hear the case. It is listed among dozens which the court chose not to consider (see page 45).
Al-Arian was to stand trial in August on two contempt charges stemming from his refusal to testify before a northern Virginia federal grand jury investigating terror financing. Al-Arian insists that he doesn't have to testify because his 2006 guilty plea did not include a provision for him to cooperate with law enforcement.
When attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema decided to delay the contempt trial until the appeal is resolved. A new trial date should be set soon.
The grand jury's focus is believed to be on terror financing by the Herndon, Va.-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). The institute was the single largest donor for a think tank Al-Arian created in Tampa called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). The president of IIIT Al-Arian wrote a letter in 1992 referring to WISE as an extension of IIIT.
IIIT also housed Bashir Musa Nafi, one of the original founders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 1995, Al-Arian sponsored a petition for a worker's visa on behalf of Nafi to allow him to work as a research director employed by WISE. However, Nafi was actually employed by IIIT, and false information on his INS petition leading to Nafi's deportation to London in June 1996.
The investigation appears to involve questions whether IIIT leaders were leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Al-Arian filed an affidavit he hoped would relieve him from a grand jury appearance in which he admits he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1978 to 1982 (paragraph 6 on page 5).