The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the ruling of a Virginia judge holding former USF professor Sami Al-Arian, 49, in contempt of court for refusing to testify in a federal investigation of several Islamic charities suspected of aiding terrorist organizations.
The appeal, which was filed under the alias John Doe, was based on Al-Arian’s contention that verbal agreements he made when signing his plea agreement protected him from future testimony. He has also expressed fears that testifying in other cases may endanger his life.
“Everyone agrees that the written plea agreement in the Middle District of Florida contains no language which would bar the government from compelling appellant’s testimony before a grand jury,” the court wrote in its unpublished opinion. “It is also undisputed that the plea agreement contains an ‘integration clause,’ stating that the written agreement contains all agreements between the parties, and that appellant and his counsel acknowledged at the plea hearing that, with the sole exception of a promise to expedite his deportation upon service of his sentence, the government had made no additional promises to induce his plea.”
The contempt ruling mandated a sentence of 18 months in prison, of which Al-Arian will likely serve the remainder unless he chooses to testify. Following that, he will serve the remaining 174 days of a 57-month sentence agreed upon in his plea.
Though the court heard the matter, judges opted not to hear oral arguments because “the facts and legal conclusions are adequately presented in the materials before the court and argument would not significantly aid in the decisional process,” they wrote.
Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla, was unhappy with the court’s decision, calling the process “rushed,” and intimated that Al-Arian’s legal battles may yet continue.
“We felt that the decision was rushed,” Nahla said. “We didn’t present our argument before the court. They didn’t give us enough time to show them what we had. Everything was done in haste. The decision was disappointing, but this is not the end of our struggle. We can still take it to a higher level of the justice system. We’ll do our best. This shows again my husband’s statement that this case, it is a political case.”
View the court’s opinion.