TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - A former Florida university professor was deported this week, ending years of legal battles over accusations that he aided a Palestinian terrorist organization.
Sami Al-Arian left on Wednesday night on a commercial flight out of Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
He was headed to Turkey, according to a blog post by his criminal attorney, Jonathan Turley.
The case against Al-Arian, formerly a computer science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, received international attention as a test of U.S. government’s powers under the Patriot Act.
Al-Arian was arrested in 2003 on charges that he gave money and support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
A jury later acquitted Al-Arian of eight of the 17 charges against him, failing to reach a verdict on the remaining counts.
In 2006, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide services to the organization. He agreed to be deported after serving his prison sentence.
Instead, he faced another legal battle, this time with U.S. prosecutors in Virginia. In 2008, he was charged with two counts of criminal contempt after refusing to testify in a separate investigation. Those charges that were dropped in June.
“Dr. Al-Arian’s case raised troubling due process, academic freedom, and free speech issues,” Turley wrote on his blog.
He noted that Al-Arian likely would keep writing and lecturing from Turkey, although it is unknown if he will teach.
Turley also posted a statement attributed to Al-Arian.
“Despite the long and arduous ordeal and hardships suffered by my family, I leave with no bitterness or resentment in my heart whatsoever,” Al Arian wrote in the online post.
Reporting by Letitia Stein