- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) — Former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian has pleaded guilty to aiding the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad and agreed to be deported, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Al-Arian and three co-defendants were charged in 2003 with helping the group carry out attacks in Israel. In December, a federal jury in Tampa found al-Arian not guilty on eight charges and failed to reach a verdict on nine others after a six-month trial.

Prosecutors hailed the plea bargain agreement as a victory.

“Al-Arian has now admitted providing assistance to help the Palestinian Islamic Jihad … as the government has alleged from the start,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Alice Fisher said.

Islamic Jihad took responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed nine persons and wounded about 65 yesterday outside a restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in a closed hearing before a U.S. magistrate in Tampa on Friday, U.S. officials said. The agreement averts another trial on the deadlocked charges.

The former professor admitted that he “conspired to make and receive contributions of funds, goods and services to or for the benefit of specially designated terrorists,” court documents said.

The remaining eight counts against him will be dismissed under the plea agreement. U.S. District Judge James Moody accepted the plea yesterday and scheduled sentencing for May 1. The agreement calls for 46 to 57 months in prison, but al-Arian probably will receive credit for the three years that he has spent in jail since his arrest.

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