TAMPA, Fla. — A judge sentenced former professor Sami Al-Arian today to another year and a half in prison before he will be deported in his terrorism conspiracy case.
Al-Arian, 48, was sentenced to four years and nine months, but he will get credit for the three years and three months he has already served while being held.
He signed a plea agreement April 14 in which he admitted providing support to members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a State Department-designated terrorist group responsible for hundreds of deaths in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Al-Arian took the plea deal despite a jury's failing to convict him of any of the 17 charges against him after a six-month trial last year. His family said he agreed to the deal to get out of jail and end their suffering.
It was not immediately clear where Al-Arian would be sent. Born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugee parents, he was reared mostly in Egypt before coming to the United States 30 years ago.
He has been jailed since his arrest in February 2003 and was fired from the University of South Florida, where he was a computer-engineering professor, shortly after his indictment.
The failure to convict Al-Arian was a stinging rebuke for the federal government. His case was once hailed by authorities as a triumph of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act, which allowed secret wiretaps and other information gathered by intelligence agents to be used in criminal prosecutions.
As part of the plea agreement, Al-Arian admitted to being associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the late 1980s and providing "services" for the group, which included filing for immigration benefits for key members, hiding the identities of those men and lying about his involvement.
Al-Arian admitted to considerably less guilt than prosecutors tried to prove at trial. They described Al-Arian then as the leader of a North American cell of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, raising money for suicide bombings and spreading the word in what was described as a "cycle of terror."
Al-Arian was acquitted in December of eight of the 17 federal charges against him while the jury deadlocked on the rest. He pleaded guilty to one count in the indictment that charges him with "conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
Two of his co-defendants were acquitted of all charges, which were mostly based on hundreds of hours of intercepted phone calls and faxes. A fourth, Hatem Naji Fariz, was acquitted on 25 counts while the jury deadlocked on eight others. The case against him on the remaining counts is pending.