Al-Arian hearing today

Lawyers representing Sami Al-Arian will convene this morning in court for a status conference to discuss when the trial of the former USF professor could begin.

Al-Arian has requested a speedy trial, which mandates a trial begin no more than 70 days after an indictment is made public.

One of Al-Arian’s court-appointed lawyers, Frank Louderback, says that the 70-day period has long since past. May 1 marked 70 days since the Feb. 20 indictment that charged Al-Arian with 50 counts relating to terrorism, including conspiracy to murder and racketeering.

Louderback said the government contends the 70-day period hasn’t yet begun because it says some defendants from the indictment are not yet in custody.

The condition in which Al-Arian and former USF adjunct Sameeh Hammoudeh are being held may also be discussed today.

Al-Arian and Hammoudeh requested to a judge that they be moved from the Coleman Correctional Facility, which 70 miles north of Tampa, to a location closer to downtown Tampa, where most of the pretrial proceedings are conducted.

Both men have also complained that it is hard to communicate with their lawyers, and that their treatment in the federal prison — including strip searches and 23-hour-a-day cell confinement — is unjust. Louderback says the men are being treating like post-Sept. 11 detainees.

Louderback said last week that the government provided the men, who are sharing a cell, with more than 130 cassette tapes containing thousands of hours in telephone conversations that are being used as evidence against them.

They were provided with two battery-operated audio players, and each received two pencils, which Louderback said were the size of the pencils one would use on a golf course.

Al-Arian and Hammoudeh were attempting to translate the Arabic on the tapes into English, but the pencils eventually wore down. Getting new ones, Louderback said, was next to impossible. Now, he has been told, the situation has been resolved.

The hearing will begin this morning at 9:30 at the federal courthouse on 801 North Florida Avenue.