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Al-Arian faces trial for criminal contempt

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A man who pleaded guilty to assisting Palestinian Islamic Jihad will be tried for criminal contempt for his refusal to testify in another case.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Friday set March 9 as the trial date for Sami al-Arian, according to freesamialarian.com, his backers’ Web site.

Al-Arian was acquitted in December 2005 of eight federal terrorism charges related to his alleged fund raising for Palestinian Islamic Jihad; the jury deadlocked on nine other charges.

In a deal, prosecutors agreed to forgo a retrial on the nine charges and Al-Arian pleaded guilty to providing the organization with assistance in one instance after it became illegal to do so in the mid-1990s. He was to have served out his term and then be deported to Egypt in 2007. Instead, federal prosecutors sought his grand jury testimony in a similar case against the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Virginia-based think tank.

Al-Arian refused, saying he had already provided what information he had on the matter and that the subpoena violated his deal with the government. Prosecutors kept him jailed until September on civil contempt charges and sought a trial for criminal contempt.

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