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Hammoudeh's wife, kids arrive in Jordan

But the U.S. government continues to hold Sameeh Hammoudeh, despite his acquittal in the Al-Arian trial.

By MEG LAUGHLIN
Published February 9, 2006


TAMPA - Nadia Hammoudeh and her six children arrived in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday without Sameeh Hammoudeh, who is her husband and the children's father.

He remains in a Bradenton jail, held by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite being acquitted Dec. 6 of terrorism-related charges.

Thirty minutes before their flight left for New York Tuesday, the family got a call from Hammoudeh, saying that ICE was not taking him to the airport to join them for the Tampa-New York leg of the journey to Amman.

Still, the family held out hope that ICE would fly him to New York during their five-hour layover so he could fly to Jordan with them.

But it didn't happen.

Wednesday afternoon, ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez told the St. Petersburg Times: "Sameeh Hammoudeh remains in our custody."

Hammoudeh, now 45, was accused of sending money to the occupied territories to finance the suicide bombings of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for hundreds of deaths there and in Israel.

He was a co-defendant in a six-month trial, along with former University fo South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, Ghassan Ballut and Hatem Fariz, all charged with furthering terrorism.

Hammoudeh and Ballut were found not guilty of all charges. Al-Arian and Fariz were acquitted on some charges, but the jury could not agree on a verdict in others, and the government is considering whether to retry them.

Hammoudeh was arrested on the terrorism charges in 2004, and was denied bail. He has spent the last three years in prison. For the past two months he has been imprisoned, despite his acquittal.

He faces deportation because in a separate case he pleaded guilty to failure to pay $8,027 in income taxes over 11 years, along with making false statements on a mortgage application and a visa form. He and his wife, who was also charged in the case, agreed to be deported with no jail time.

On Friday, Hammoudeh's defense attorneys, Stephen Bernstein and Steve Crawford, canceled a hearing in the court of U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. to argue for Sameeh Hammoudeh's release because ICE officials assured them that Hammoudeh would be flying to Jordan with his family Tuesday.

When it didn't happen Tuesday, they rescheduled the hearing for this Friday. However, if ICE puts Hammoudeh on a plane before the hearing, it will be canceled.

Meanwhile, Nadia Hammoudeh and the kids are staying with relatives in Amman, waiting for Hammoudeh. They hope he arrives before another week passes, so their family of eight can make the six-hour drive to the family home in the Israeli-controlled West Bank together.

Susan Taylor Martin contributed to this report.

[Last modified February 9, 2006, 01:29:11]


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