Lawyers state case in closed hearing
Sami Al-Arian's attorneys have asked to be removed from the case; the judge promised a ruling by Feb. 11.
By MEG LAUGHLIN
Published January 27, 2006
TAMPA - Lawyers for Sami Al-Arian explained to the judge why they wanted off the case, Friday. But the public was not allowed to hear their reasons.
Before the private bench discussion, attorney Bill Moffitt told the court, "It is not our attention to disparage Dr. Al-Arian or to do any more to him than has already been done."
After the closed discussion, Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III told Moffitt and co-counsel Linda Moreno that he would rule on their request to be relieved by Feb. 11th and that "the order and the reasons for it will be put in the public record."
Except for the clanking of shackles on his ankles, Al-Arian sat quietly in a baggy orange jail uniform. His appearance sharply contrasted to how he looked at his six-month terrorism trial, where he wore neatly pressed suits and ties and was never shackled. In December, a jury acquitted him of eight charges and hung on nine more.
"We are in a pretrial posture," said McCoun, "and the court is very concerned with the rights of Mr. Al-Arian to a fair trial."
A retrial would deal with the nine remaining counts, federal prosecutor Terry Zitek said. McCoun asked him if the government would subpoena the two defendants who were acquitted - Ghassan Ballut and Sameeh Hammoudeh - to testify in a retrial.
"This relates to other concerns I have," said McCoun.
Ballut is free in Chicago, but Hammoudeh remains imprisoned in a Bradenton jail, waiting to go to the West Bank with his family. Immigration officials said last week he would be removed from the United States "very soon." But he has not been released, and the reasons why are unclear.
McCoun's mention of him in the context of a retrial of Al-Arian raised questions about whether Hammoudeh is being held to testify, if Al-Arian is retried, or whether he will be released "very soon," as immigration officials have said.
Regarding the prospect of calling Hammoudeh as a witness, prosecutor Terry Zitek told McKoun, "We see no legal impediment to doing that."
Hammoudeh's lawyer, contacted after the hearing, scoffed at the notion of his client being called as a witness if Al-Arian is retried. "I cannot imagine Terry Zitek wanting a jury to hear anything Sameeh Hammoudeh might come up with," he said.