Al-Arian’s hearing reviews case

Sami Al-Arian’s new lawyers stepped foot into the courtroom Friday rehashing mostly old issues.

Prominent Washington-based attorney William B. Moffitt and Tampa criminal defense lawyer Linda Moreno tried to clarify when prosecutors will turn over evidence to them and in what format. In addition, Moffitt discussed the conditions at the Coleman Federal Correction Complex, where Al-Arian is being held without bail until his January 2005 trial.

The former USF engineering professor, who did not attend Friday’s hearing, was arrested in February with a 50-count indictment on charges of conspiracy to murder and racketeering.

For several years, federal agents taped thousands of hours of Al-Arian’s telephone conversations. The conversations taped are in Arabic.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, prosecutors said they are about half-done with listening to the conversations and have handed over copies of the conversations in batches so far.

However, Moffitt said he is concerned about getting the tapes, but wants to make sure that the rest of the evidence, such as documents and warrant affidavits, are available as well.

“The defense ought to have as much as they can as soon as they can,” he said. “I certainly think we can do more than one thing at one time in this case.”

Moffitt, in addition, raised questions again to federal Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun about the conditions at Coleman prison.

Moffitt said the facility made it difficult for Al-Arian to celebrate Ramadan, an Islamic holy month and that he is being held in a special housing unit. Moffitt added that the conditions are so appalling that he will hire a psychiatrist sometime in the near future to examine Al-Arian to see if his cognitive capacity has been impaired.

“I believe people have decided that guilt is inevitable in this case, so punishment must start now,” Moffitt said in a news conference held earlier this month.