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Al-Arian appeals prison term

The judge linked him to violent activity, but the plea agreement had nonviolent admissions.

Published May 11, 2006

Sami Al-Arian is appealing his prison sentence.

Last week, a federal judge sentenced him to the maximum allowed in his plea agreement, 57 months. Explaining the reason for the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge James S. Moody told Al-Arian that he had "created orphans and widows" through his help for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In December, after a six-month federal trial, a jury acquitted Al-Arian of conspiring to further the violence of the PIJ, which has claimed responsibility for hundreds of deaths in Israel and the occupied territories. The jury acquitted him of eight counts and deadlocked on nine.

Three months later, as part of a plea deal, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to helping PIJ associates in nonviolent ways. But when Moody sentenced Al-Arian last week, the judge linked Al-Arian to violent activity, despite the nonviolent admissions that were the basis of the plea agreement and the jury's December acquittal.

Al-Arian has been in the Federal Detention Center in Tallahassee for seven days, waiting to be assigned to a permanent facility to serve the remainder of his time, which is about 18 months. A prison official said Al-Arian will be allowed one brief telephone call a week, and will probably be at the detention center for a month.

The attorney on the notice of appeal is Peter Erlinder, a law professor at William Mitchell College of law in St. Paul, Minn., who sat with Al-Arian at his sentencing.

[Last modified May 11, 2006, 01:32:14]

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