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Al-Arian denied prison relocation

A judge last week denied former USF professor Sami Al-Arian’s request that he be moved to a jail closer to Tampa.

Al-Arian has complained that he is having trouble communicating with his lawyers from the Coleman Correctional Facility, a federal prison 70 miles north of Tampa in Sumter County.

Al-Arian was arrested in February and charged with conspiracy to murder, racketeering and more than 45 other charges that the government says links him to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Currently, Al-Arian is confined to his cell for 23 hours a day and has complained that even the most basic of amenities, such as a writing utensil, can be difficult, if not impossible, to get.

The St. Petersburg Times reported Friday that Al-Arian told a judge that his hand was closed in a door by a guard during an altercation that started when Al-Arian couldn’t get access to a sharp pencil.

Al-Arian plans on defending himself when his case goes to trial. He has been allowed to listen to audio tapes that are being used against him in the indictment. Recently, he has been appearing before the court in pretrial proceedings via videoconferencing from the prison.

Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun visited the facility and ruled that while the 23-hour-a-day confinement may raise some heath issues, there was no evidence to prove Al-Arian’s health is at risk at the facility. He did question, however, why Al-Arian was being strip-searched and asked the warden to respond with an answer within 10 days.

Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla, and one his lawyers, Frank Louderback, could not be reached for comment Sunday.