The Sami Al-Arian Case, Al-Arian attorney charges bias
He says a U.S. prosecutor openly condemned Islam and is aiming to stretch his client's sentence.
Documents unsealed in the Sami Al-Arian case Thursday raise questions about an assistant U.S. attorney's motives for requiring Al-Arian to testify before a federal grand jury in Virginia.
Al-Arian's Tampa attorney, Jack Fernandez, wrote that on Sept. 18 he asked Gordon Kromberg, assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, to delay Al-Arian's transfer 30 days until after the Islamic religious holidays of Ramadan.
According to a court motion filed by Fernandez, Kromberg responded: "If they can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury, all they can't do is eat before sunset.
I believe Mr. Al-Arian's request is part of the attempted Islamization of the American Justice System. I am not going to put off Dr. Al-Arian's grand jury appearance just to assist in what is becoming the Islamization of America.
" Kromberg declined to comment Thursday. According to the unsealed documents, Fernandez called Kromberg back the same day and told him his comments "called into question (his) objectivity.
" Two days later, Fernandez said, he asked Kromberg to recuse himself from the part of his investigation involving Al-Arian. Kromberg refused. On Oct. 19, Kromberg called Al-Arian before a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., and questioned him about his knowledge of the workings of an Islamic think tank in Northern Virginia. Al-Arian refused to answer, saying his "forced cooperation violated the plea agreement" he had made with prosecutors in Tampa.
In April, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of aiding the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad with nonviolent activities. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Al-Arian and his attorneys say that during plea negotiations it was clear to all parties that "Dr. Al-Arian would not cooperate with the government.
" Eastern Virginia was mentioned specifically. They say Kromberg's words about Muslims raise questions about his motives and suggest he is trying to catch Al-Arian in "a contempt trap" to lengthen his sentence.
The same day Al-Arian refused to testify before the grand jury, Kromberg asked a federal judge in Virginia to issue a contempt order against Al-Arian that could extend his sentence by 18 months.
Earlier in the week, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody agreed with federal prosecutors in Tampa that oral negotiations that weren't "memorialized" are not binding. The plea agreement "does not make any promise to the defendant that he will not have to testify in a court proceeding," prosecutors argued. Al-Arian's attorneys plan to appeal the decision. Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report.