For Sami Al-Arian, an already bad situation took a turn for the worse Friday.
Federal officials relocated Al-Arian from the Hillsborough County Jail on Orient Road to the Coleman Correctional Facility in Sumter County, about an hour north of Tampa. The move was reportedly for security reasons.
Al-Arian, who was arrested Feb. 20 after an indictment alleged he is the North American head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, will face conditions substantially more difficult than those in a county jail. He is reportedly being kept in solitary confinement.
Ironically, Al-Arian is now experiencing the same kind of treatment he fought against on behalf of brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, for years. Al-Najjar was held at the Coleman facility on “secret evidence” allegedly linking him to terrorism. He was deported last year after two stints in prison that amounted to nearly five years of incarceration.
Less than a year ago, Al-Arian was part of a protest outside the Coleman facility for Al-Najjar. He claimed at the time that Al-Najjar’s solitary confinement was cruel.
Al-Arian’s move to the facility came two days after the conclusion of his marathon four-day bail hearing. Judge Mark Pizzo is expected to rule on Al-Arian’s request for bail this week.
Depending on the ruling, Al-Arian could be released from federal custody. If not, Al-Arian will remain in prison until his trial begins. It may be as long as two years until the trial.
Al-Arian’s hunger strike, which he began the day of his arrest, reportedly continues. His exact weight loss is unknown, but during the bail hearing Al-Arian’s gaunt appearance was noticeable.
Al-Arian’s fellow defendants in the indictment, Ghassan Ballut, Sameeh Hammoudeh and Hatim Fariz, were also relocated to the Coleman facility.