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Al-Arian to remain in prison

During a four-day bond hearing last month, federal prosecutors painted Sami Al-Arian as the dangerous North American leader of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad and as a serious risk to flee the country.

On Thursday, Federal Judge Mark Pizzo ruled that the government’s evidence was strong enough, and the criminal accusations serious enough, to keep Al-Arian behind bars.

Al-Arian, who was arrested Feb. 20, will not be offered bond and will remain in prison until his trial, which could be as long as two years away. Sameeh Hammoudeh, accused of terrorism-related crimes in the government’s 120-page indictment, will also remain in prison without bond.

Pizzo, however, ruled that the government had not presented enough evidence to keep the other two defendants, Hatim Fariz and Ghassan Ballut, in prison. He set bail for both men.

Reportedly, attorneys for Al-Arian will appeal the ruling.

“It’s interesting that the U.S. citizens (Ballut and Fariz) got some sort of relief conditions, and those here legally, but not citizens, (Al-Arian and Hammoudeh) were ordered to be detained,” Jeffrey Brown, an Al-Arian attorney, told the Associated Press Thursday.

The next step scheduled for the Al-Arian legal team is a May 1 status meeting. Judge Thomas McCoun III asked the attorneys to prepare a basic budget to present at that meeting.

Defense attorneys previously promised that once Pizzo ruled, they would file a motion to change Al-Arian’s incarceration. Al-Arian was moved to the Coleman Federal Correctional Facility in Sumter County on March 28 for security reasons. He told McCoun Monday during his arraignment that his conditions make participating in his own defense nearly impossible.

McCoun said once Pizzo ruled he would make a decision on Al-Arian’s incarceration. It is unclear when a motion or a decision on that matter may come.

Pizzo’s ruling came more than two weeks after the conclusion of the marathon bond hearing. Nicholas Matassini, former Al-Arian attorney, spent the better part of two days arguing his client’s case. He argued that many of the indictment’s claims are easily explained away, and that the Kuwait-born Al-Arian would not leave his wife and children to flee.