By Ben Hubbard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 11, 2008
A federal judge yesterday ordered the release on bond of a former Florida professor charged with refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating whether Islamic charities in Northern Virginia were financing terrorists.
As conditions of his release, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled, Sami al-Arian must submit to electronic monitoring and live under house arrest with his adult son until his Aug. 13 jury trial. But Arian's status with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement trumps his immediate release. Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman, said Arian will be in ICE custody if he posts bond.
In April, Arian, who taught computer science at the University of South Florida, finished serving a 57-month prison term on a conspiracy charge for aiding a terrorist organization. As part of the plea agreement, he was to be deported, but he has remained in detention while prosecutors in Alexandria seek his testimony.
Arian was charged last month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with two counts of criminal contempt. His attorney, Jonathan Turley, said Arian was negotiating the terms of his cooperation with prosecutors when he was indicted.
"We're very pleased that the judge recognized on the record that my father is neither a threat to the community nor a flight risk," said Arian's daughter, Laila. "We are hoping that ICE will do the right thing and release him."
Turley said he would facilitate Arian's deportation if his client is transferred to ICE custody.
"If the government wants to treat him as a deportation case, then we're willing to seek his immediate deportation," he said.
The indictment of Arian triggered outrage from his family and Muslim groups that have mounted a national campaign to secure his release from prison. His bond was set yesterday at the full amount of his retirement fund, estimated at $340,000, according to the court docket.