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    Terror Indictments

    Al-Arian in good spirits, wife says

    By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 23, 2003

    TAMPA -- Sami Al-Arian is spending his days at Tampa's Orient Road Jail praying and reciting chapters of the Koran that he has memorized.

    "He is fine, in good spirits, serene," his wife, Nahla, said Saturday after seeing him for the first time since federal agents arrested him Thursday. "He told me, 'Don't worry. Everything will be fine.' "

    Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and blue jacket, Al-Arian spent an hour behind a glass wall at the jail, visiting with his wife and the youngest of the couple's five children, Ali, 12, and Lama, 9.

    "I feel better seeing him," Mrs. Al-Arian said. "I feel like a lost woman without him."

    Al-Arian, 45, a University of South Florida professor, is charged with overseeing the North American faction of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group that killed dozens of people in the past decade. A bail hearing is set for Tuesday.

    "He told me to tell his friends and supporters of civil rights in America thanks for everything, their support," Mrs. Al-Arian said. "The whole thing to us is beyond reason."

    Mrs. Al-Arian plans to take him a copy of the Koran during a second visit today with their daughter, Leena, 17.

    The eldest children are attending college outside of Florida.

    "People treated him roughly at first but then it got better," she said.

    Al-Arian is in a cell by himself. The first night he said he lay shivering as he tried to sleep, and bailiffs would not bring him a blanket, she said. But by the next day, he was brought a blanket and a jacket, she said.

    Mrs. Al-Arian said her husband has continued a hunger strike to protest his inability to pursue the Palestinian cause "without persecution."

    She said he told her that he didn't feel hungry or tired but that he was coughing and the asthma he has suffered may have come back.

    The wives of the other two local defendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh of Tampa and Hatem Naji Fariz of Spring Hill, saw their husbands later Saturday.

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