Al-Arian to Face Trial for Contempt

TAMPA -

A federal judge has declined to dismiss contempt charges against Sami Al-Arian, saying a jury should decide whether he has committed a crime by refusing to testify in a case against an Islamic charity.

The ruling means a jury will convene in Alexandria, Va., in March.

In 2005, Al-Arian accepted a plea agreement with federal prosecutors after a six-month trial in Tampa, where he was acquitted on most of the charges he aided terrorists in the Middle East, while the jury deadlocked on two charges. He later pleaded guilty to one count of helping associates of Palestinian Islamic Jihad - branded a terrorist group by the U.S. - with nonviolent activities. Al-Arian contends his plea agreement exempted him from testifying again and that he would be deported to the Middle East when his sentence was completed in early 2007.

But he was forced to remain in prison after being charged with contempt for refusing to testify before a Virginia grand jury.

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