- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a former Florida professor trying to get the court involved in federal prosecutors’ efforts to have him testify about terror financing.

The high court’s decision eliminates one of two major impediments that have stalled prosecutors from bringing ex-professor Sami Al-Arian to trial for refusing to testify to a grand jury in Northern Virginia investigating terror financing.

Mr. Al-Arian, who once taught computer science at the University of South Florida, struck a plea bargain in 2005 by admitting that he conspired to assist the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), specifically by helping a family member with links to the group get immigration benefits and by lying to a reporter about another person’s links to the PIJ.

The plea bargain came after a lengthy trial in Florida failed to obtain a conviction on more serious charges that Mr. Al-Arian had been one of the leaders of the PIJ.

Mr. Al-Arian argued that the terms of his plea bargain barred the government from demanding his testimony in other terror cases because the usual language requiring cooperation had been stricken from the plea agreement.

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta disagreed with Mr. Al-Arian’s interpretation, and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene.

In Alexandria, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had postponed Mr. Al-Arian’s trial, saying that his appeal on the scope of the plea agreement should be resolved first.

But the other impediment to Mr. Al-Arian’s contempt of court trial remains: Judge Brinkema has questioned whether prosecutors properly drafted the paperwork ordering Mr. Al-Arian to testify to the Northern Virginia grand jury. She is expected to hear arguments on the issue in the next few weeks.

Mr. Al-Arian, who served nearly five years in prison after his conviction in the Florida trial, could face up to life in prison if convicted of contempt of court.

His attorney, Jonathan Turley, said he was disappointed by the high court’s action, but remained optimistic about the overall strength of his client’s case.

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