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American Muslim


April 7, 2003

Court Appoints Al-Arian New Lawyers

TAMPA (Associated Press) - A former Palestinian professor accused of leading a terrorist organization's U.S. operations refused to enter a plea Monday after a federal magistrate would not give him extra time to raise money for a private lawyer and assigned him two court-appointed attorneys instead.

Sami Al-Arian then had an innocent plea entered on his behalf by U.S. Magistrate Thomas B. McCoun III.

Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida computer engineering professor, is accused of heading the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's U.S. operations. The government says it is a terrorist group responsible for 100 murders in Israel and its territories.

Al-Arian read from a written statement Monday, decrying his recent move from a local jail to Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County more than 60 miles away.

Al-Arian said that the move has complicated his efforts to talk with his previous attorney, Nicholas Matassini, and that it stymied his attempt to raise the money necessary to put together a legal team. He said he was an ``individual who may not have many rights left as a human being'' and that he was being punished by being assigned attorneys rather than getting more time to raise money.

McCoun said that Al-Arian still could attempt to retain his own lawyers but that in the meantime the arraignment needed to go on. ``This case is going to move forward,'' he said. McCoun promised that the issues over his confinement at Coleman would be addressed with his new lawyers.

(Tampa Bay Online – April 7, 2003)