At a bail hearing at Alexandria, Virginia, Judge Leonie Brinkema has ordered a prominent Palestinian activist, Dr. Sami Al-Arian, released but he remained in prison since the judge refused to block immigration authorities from detaining Al-Arian as a prelude to his deportation.
The upshot of the ruling of July 10, 2008 seemed to be that Al-Arian will stay behind bars, at least for now. According to the New York Sun the decision puts the government in the odd posture of detaining a man for a deportation authorities have no immediate intention of carrying out.
Al-Arian's lead counsel, Jonathan Turley, said that over the objections of the government and the pre-trial services, Judge Brinkema agreed with defense that Dr. Al-Arian was not a flight risk and no danger to the community.
Judge Brinkema made a number of significant statements in the hearing:
First, she warned the government that she was getting "strange signals" for this case.
Second, she stated that the plea agreement continued to apply to the case and that the government is required to deport him with expedition.
Third, she said that any resumption of custody by ICE would trigger the deportation provision.
Fourth, Judge Brinkema specifically asked for confirmation that Dr. Al-Arian had already made detailed statements to the government and repeatedly offered to take a polygraph examination to prove that he was not withholding information.
On the question of the government's failure to deport Dr. Al-Arian, the defense was astonished by prosecutor Mr. Gordon Kromberg's insistence that the government did not know of any travel document issued by the Egyptian government.
Al-Arian's lead counsel Jonathan Turley said: I objected that multiple copies were submitted to the government weeks ago and that Mr. Kromberg was personally informed of the travel documents before the indictment. Despite this record, Mr. Kromberg suggested that Dr. Al-Arian was "a man without a country" and thus could not be deported at this time.
His wife and some of his children recently moved to Egypt. That country has agreed to accept him if the deportation goes forward, Mr. Turley said.
Mr. Turley said prosecutor Mr. Gordon Kromberg acknowledged that some of the questions the government wants to ask Al-Arian pertain to issues raised at his Florida trial. Al-Arian's lawyers fear such a tactic would be an attempt to retry the Florida case by eliciting denials that could become the basis for perjury charges.
Mr. Truly said: In this admission, Mr. Kromberg established that Dr. Al-Arian is not being charged with failing to answer questions about the International Institute for Islamic Thought investigation - which were addressed fully in his affidavits. Rather, the government is trying to revisit the Florida trial that it lost when a jury acquitted Dr. Al-Arian of various counts (and came within two votes of acquitting him on all counts).
On Judge Brinkema's statement that she was picking up "strange signals" from the case, Mr. Truly said things are likely to become stranger still as the government continues its long campaign to hold Dr. Al-Arian by any means or method.
He asid that the government has suggested that it may now block release by having Immigration officials hold Dr. Al-Arian for deportation - despite the fact that it is trying to hold him for years under a criminal sentence rather than deport him.
In 2005, a Florida jury rejected federal charges that Al-Arian had operated a cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was scheduled for release and deportation that April this year.
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