Anyone in Al-Arian’s shoes would refuse to testify

There’s more trouble for Sami Al-Arian.

Last year, a federal grand jury came up hung on nine charges that Al-Arian had aided a terrorist organization while also exonerating him on eight other charges. Afterward, Al-Arian entered a guilty plea on one charge of aiding the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization with non-violent activities. He was sentenced to a maximum of 57 months in prison. His deportation from the United States is expected once his sentence is up.

That is, provided he’s released at all.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the former University of South Florida professor refused to testify before a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., on Oct. 19. He was to be a witness in an investigation on whether Islamic charities – most notably the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) – had funneled money to terrorist organizations.

Needless to say, the Muslim charities deny the charge. Al-Arian claims that if he does testify, his life will be in danger. The federal judge is likely to hold him in contempt of court for his refusal to testify on the matter, which could add as much as 18 months to his sentence. Al-Arian’s attorneys say he is unlikely to comply with the judge’s order to testify.

The Virginia investigation is based on evidence accumulated during raids of homes and businesses in northern Virginia. The evidence – more than 500 boxes of documents, according to the Post – have already led to two convictions, including that of Abdurahman Alamoudi, a former Muslim activist who pleaded guilty to conspiring with Lybia to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Al-Arian made it clear that he would not cooperate with the federal government before he pleaded guilty, but a federal judge in Florida rejected that argument. Al-Arian says he has no information that could help prosecutors and that “any ties between him, and IIIT are more than a decade old.” He has appealed the federal judge’s ruling, which forces him to testify, on the grounds that his plea agreement freed him from that obligation. The only problem is that if Al-Arian knows nothing, his life shouldn’t be in danger.

It is possible Al-Arian is a terrorist mastermind. It’s also possible he’s not. Suspicion upon him has certainly escalated, however, because he said he knows nothing, yet refuses to testify because he fears it will endanger his life. After all, the United States will not be present to protect him in whatever country to which he is deported. Given the choice of certain death at the hands of jihadists or a measly 18 months more in prison, anyone, guilty or innocent, would make the same choice Al-Arian has.