Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian (Arabic: سامي العريان) (born January 14, 1958 in Kuwait) is a professor of computer engineering and civic activist. The son of Palestinian refugees to the United States, in 2006 he made a plea agreement to plead guilty to conspiracy to help a "specially designated terrorist" organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison and given credit for time served. He was to serve the balance of 19 months and then be deported. In March 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed Al-Arian to testify before another grand jury. Because he refused to testify, prosecutors charged him with criminal contempt in June 2008. On September 2, 2008, Al-Arian was released from detention on bond. He will remain under house arrest as he awaits a trial on contempt charges.
Sami Al-Arian was born in Kuwait He came to the United States in 1975 at the age of 17 to attend university. He obtained his Bachelor's Degree, graduating with honors in 1978 with a major in Electrical Engineering, and completed his Master's Degree and Ph.D. in computer engineering in 1980 and 1985 respectively. In 1986, he was hired as a professor in the Computer Sciences Department at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Dr. Al-Arian is married to Nahla Al-Arian and has five children. His son Abdullah Al-Arian was intern for U.S. Rep. David E. Bonior in 2001. Sami Al-Arian's eldest daughter, Laila Al-Arian, is a producer for Al Jazeera English in Washington DC and a contributor to Huffington Post and The Nation.
Al-Arian was a frequent speaker and lecturer on college campuses, churches, and conferences on interfaith dialogue, community development, and civil rights. He also organized voter registration drives, political candidates and lobbied policy makers. In 1981 he helped establish the Islamic Society of North America. In 1990 he co-founded the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), an academic institution promoting dialogue between the Muslim and Western worlds. He also helped establish the Islamic Committee for Palestine to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinians. . In 1997 he cofounded the Tampa Bay Coalition for Peace and Justice which focused on the use of secret evidence and other civil rights violations legislated in 1996 antiterrorism and immigration acts. He also co-founded the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom to oppose the use of secret evidence and was elected its first president in 2000.