WASHINGTON — A Palestinian activist and former college professor who was targeted by the Justice Department for more than a decade has been deported from the U.S. to Turkey, the Homeland Security Department said Friday.
Sami Al-Arian was teaching computer science at the University of South Florida in 2003 when he when he was arrested as part of a federal terrorism investigation and accused of playing a leadership role in the terrorist group Palestinian Jihad. He was acquitted of most charges after a six-month trial in 2005 and later agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges of conspiracy to provide, make or receive funds, goods or services for the benefit of a terrorist organization.
Al-Arian was expected to be deported after his prison sentence, but he was later charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify in another terror-related case in Virginia in 2008. That case sat in limbo until last summer, when it was quietly dismissed by the Justice Department, setting up Al-Arian's deportation.
Al-Arian's criminal lawyer, Jonathan Turley, said Friday the government's case against his client should have ended after he agreed to plead guilty in Florida.
"The Justice Department failed to honor its commitment under the plea agreement by calling ... Al-Arian to Virginia," Turley said. He also criticized the government for charging his client with contempt for failing to testify before a Virginia grand jury that didn't issue any indictments.
Al-Arian's daughter, Laila Al-Arian, decried the cases against her father as "another historic example of the tragic excesses of the Bush administration's war on terror." She added that while the family was sorry to see him leave the United States, "we're happy that he can finally live in freedom."
In a statement attributed to Al-Arian posted on Turley's blog, the former professor said his time in the U.S. had come to an end and thanked his children "for their patience, perseverance and support during the challenges of the last decade."
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