Acquitted Palestinian deported

On May 23, US government officials deported Palestinian native and Tampa resident Sameeh Hammoudeh by taking him to Jordan. Hammoudeh then crossed into the Occupied West Bank to be reunited with his wife and six children, according to his attorney, Stephen Bernstein. “He’s home in the West Bank,” Bernstein said. “He’s in Ramallah.” Hammoudeh had been in US federal custody since February 2003. Last Dec. 6, a jury acquitted Hammoudeh of charges that he was involved in raising money in Tampa for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). As part of a June 2005 plea deal in a separate tax fraud case, Hammoudeh and his wife had already agreed to be deported. Hammoudeh’s wife was deported in February, but Bernstein had to sue the government in federal court to expedite Hammoudeh’s deportation. Bernstein said the Israeli government granted permission on April 20 for Hammoudeh to enter the Occupied West Bank. A federal judge reviewing the lawsuit gave immigration officials until May 24 to deport Hammoudeh or explain why they continued to hold him. (AP, May 25; Washington Post, Dec. 7, 2005)

The same jury that acquitted Hammoudeh on Dec. 6 also acquitted his co-defendant, Kuwait-born Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian, of eight charges in the Tampa “terror” case, and deadlocked on another nine charges. On April 14, Al-Arian made a deal with the government and pled guilty to one count of conspiring to provide support to the PIJ. The plea deal, which was unsealed in federal court on April 17, was supposed to allow Al-Arian to be sentenced to time served and quickly deported. But at the May 1 sentencing hearing where the deal was expected to be confirmed, Judge James S. Moody Jr. of Federal District Court in Tampa instead sentenced Al-Arian to an additional 19 months in prison–the maximum allowed under sentencing guidelines. The prosecution had asked for him to be sentenced at the low end of the guidelines. (New York Times, May 2; WP, April 18)

From Immigration News Briefs, June 10

See our last post on the Al-Arian case.

See our last post on the immigration crackdown.