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Al-Najjar awaits INS decision, possible release from prison

Immigration and Naturalization Services officials conducted a custody hearing Wednesday for Mazen Al-Najjar at the Coleman Federal Prison in Sumter County, Florida.

Al-Najjar, a former USF adjunct professor, has been held by the INS for deportation since November. No country has offered to grant him entrance.

Al-Najjar’s attorneys have argued that the government cannot hold him for deportation for longer than six months without proving that he is dangerous.

Wednesday’s hearing was to determine whether Al-Najjar, who has been in jail almost seven months, should be released.

Joe Hohenstein, attorney for Al-Najjar, said INS officials interviewed Al-Najjar directly with counsel present. He said officials have yet to reach a decision.

“I expect they will deny him release, (within) the next two weeks,” Hohenstein said.

If the INS does indeed decide to keep Al-Najjar in prison, Hohenstein said he and his client must wait to hear from Judge Joan Leonard, who will rule on the case. Hohenstein said the briefing process will end on June 26. At that point, Hohenstein said, Leonard will decide whether to make a decision or call for oral arguments.

Man carrying arsenal arrested on campus

Former USF student James Saarinen was arrested by University Police on a weapons charge in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Sgt. Mike Klingebiel said an officer approached Saarinen, who was sitting alone in his vehicle in a parking lot adjacent to the Magnolia complex, just after midnight.

“Given the time it was parked there and the fact that it had dome lights and parking lights on, caused the officer to want to initiate contact,” Klingebiel said.

Klingebiel said Saarinen emerged from the vehicle with a gun stuck in his waistband as the officer approached. Klingebiel said Saarinen was then arrested. A subsequent search of his vehicle revealed a small arsenal, including a .45 caliber handgun, an AK-47, three loaded 30-round magazines, two loaded 10-round magazines, two cans of pepper spray, three pocket knives, a nightstick, a handmade dart gun with darts, a serrated saw, handcuffs, a gas mask and two cameras.

Klingebiel said Saarinen had a concealed weapons permit, which would have made his possession of the weapons legal elsewhere. But, Klingebiel said, since he was on USF grounds, he was subject to the charge of possessing weapons on school property.

In addition, Klingebiel said Saarinen was charged for a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia found in the vehicle.

As for why Saarinen came on campus with the weapons, Klingebiel said that was still unclear.

“He indicated that he jogs out here at USF, and beyond that, he’s not given us any other information which would indicate he had other motives out here,” Klingebiel said. “He simply possessed all this weaponry in his vehicle.”

SG senate extends summer session

Student Government senate voted 21 to six with one abstention Tuesday to approve the extension of the current senate session. The passing of Senate Bill One keeps the senate on campus through Aug 19 to cover the Summer B session. Previously the senate session ran for the duration of Summer C only.

Senate vice president and bill co-author and sponsor Ryan Caruso said if students were on campus then it was only correct that their Student Government representation should be present also. Opposition to the bill came from senators in the Colleges of Business and Engineering who said their colleges did not run any classes during the Summer C session.

Ground breaking held for new Greek housing

USF President Judy Genshaft officially broke ground Monday on a proposed new Greek housing project.

The project, which early reports had slated to begin in May, is scheduled to be completed by August 2003. It will provide seven buildings to hold 14 Greek organizations and will cost $14.5 million to construct.

The new buildings will be located next to the Village Complex. Thirteen buildings from the Village are being removed for the project.