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Al-Arian bused out of Tampa to new facility

He will spend a few weeks at a Tallahassee detention facility before being assigned to a permanent federal prison, officials say.

Published May 5, 2006

TAMPA - Sami Al-Arian is gone.

In the predawn hours Thursday, federal prison officers arrived at the Orient Road Jail in Tampa and put him on an air-conditioned bus with inmates from other Florida facilities. They drove north on Interstate 75, veering off to pick up more inmates along the way. Then the bus, with 70 to 80 inmates, merged onto Interstate 10 toward Tallahassee.

By 2 p.m., Al-Arian was waiting behind coiled razor wire in the intake section of the Federal Detention Center in Tallahassee, where prison officials say he will spend a few weeks before being assigned to a permanent federal facility.

During the next few weeks in Tallahassee, he will go through an orientation program to prepare to serve his sentence, prison officials said.

As part of a plea deal, after his terrorism-related trial, which ended with eight acquittals and nine deadlocked counts, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy - helping associates of Palestinian Islamic Jihad with immigration and legal matters.

The group has claimed responsibility for hundreds of deaths in Israel and the occupied territories in the past 15 years. Al-Arian's guilty plea did not link him to that violence.

A federal judge sentenced Al-Arian to 57 months in prison. With time served, he should be incarcerated for about a year and a half before being deported.

Prison officials say they will attempt to place him at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, a facility 70 miles north of Tampa, but cannot guarantee this location. Al-Arian's family lives in Tampa.

"We are very worried about where he'll go and how he'll be treated," said his son, Abdullah Al-Arian, noting that his father was held in a maximum-security cell for two years before the trial.

Officials at the federal facility in Tallahassee said Al-Arian will be allowed to make a brief phone call to his family today, to tell them how he is doing.

[Last modified May 5, 2006, 02:30:26]

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