Yeah, that’s a pretty harsh charge. But if you go to the Web site of (which calls itself the “interfaith online action program” of the National Council of Churches), you’re confronted with this:

FaithfulAmericans call for U.S. Attorney General to free jailed Palestinian professor

More than 4,000 members of the online advocacy group have sent emails to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calling for the release of jailed professor Dr. Sami al Arian. The Palestinian-born former University of South Florida professor was arrested on suspicion of terrorism and has been imprisoned since February, 2003, during much of the time al Arian was kept in solitary confinement.

Although Dr. al Arian was acquitted of all violence-related charges and was scheduled to be released under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney General’s office, several delaying maneuvers have occurred which al Arian’s legal counsel claims are designed to keep al Arian in prison indefinitely…., in a recent action alert, called upon the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to stand by the plea agreement which he personally approved. The alert stated “Dr. al Arian has been repeatedly called to testify before a grand jury unrelated directly to his case, causing his prison time be extended again for up to 18 additional months. This is a clear violation of the plea agreement on the part of the U.S.Government. There is nothing to stop the use of additional grand juries to extend his prison time again and again and again.”

On Friday [March 23] a circuit court judge denied an appeal of a contempt charge in which al Arian refused to testify in subsequent trials. The appeal contained transcripts from the plea agreement in Tampa in which US attorneys were in full agreement that Dr. al Arian would not be required to testify in other trials.

That last is simply disingenuous. Al Arian is being called to testify to a grand jury, not in a trial. He’s currently being held in contempt for refusing to rat out his fellow terrorist enablers. He’s also awaiting deportation (not “release”), and the government is finding it hard to get anyone to take him.

As for this sainted individual’s “acquittal,” that’s a half-truth. He was acquitted on eight charges, and a jury deadlocked on eight. But if you’d like to see what he pled guilty to, you can check it out here. In addition to the conspiracy charge, it also contains stipulated facts that make clear that al Arian was an active supporter and financier for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization. He may not have been convicted of any “violence-related” charges, but he certainly provided resources to enable others to engage in suicide bombings and the like. Here’s another perspective on the guy the NCC wants to spring:

U.S. District Judge James Moody had a very different impression of Al-Arian when he sentenced him to 57 months in prison last May. Pointing out that Al-Arian had made no effort to prevent terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic Jihad, the Judge Moody observed, “You lifted not one finger. To the contrary, you laughed when you heard of the bombings….The evidence was clear in this case that you were a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

That same article goes on to say it plainly–this is a bad guy:

Here is the truth about Al-Arian, which we are not likely to hear from his apologists: he stands convicted of being an operative for a Palestinian terrorist organization. Following a six-month trial where the jury failed to convict him of being a murderer, Al-Arian was faced with the prospect of a tight prosecution focusing solely on his role as a U.S.-based terrorist financier.

He and his attorneys realized that they could not likely defend against these charges, given the surveillance tapes. The fact that he could claim to be a legitimate philanthropist all these years, as Al-Arian knew, was the product of some archaic information-sharing rules that prevented law enforcement from fully understanding what he was up to. Those days are over.

The contrast between Al-Arian’s public face and his secret role in financially supporting overseas violence – which so enraged Judge Moody last May – could no longer be concealed. His lawyer, in fact, acknowledged Al-Arian’s role in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad during the trial, arguing that he had no viable choice. He pleaded guilty. This deal had an obvious attraction to Al-Arian. His plea agreement in Florida meant that his deception in the 1990s, which included media support from the St. Peterburg Times and parts of the United States government that embraced him, had been redressed. He could no longer be prosecuted for that conduct.

However, a person as connected as Al-Arian has information that will allow our nation’s law enforcers to discern who else is out there living a lie, and that is what interests Kromberg and his colleagues. It is true that Al-Arian has no obligation to cooperate with his accusers. However, it is also true that the grand jury has a right to all non-privileged information pertinent to its inquiries, and that the government can compel this information through a grant of immunity, which Al-Arian now enjoys. If Al-Arian persists in refusing to provide that information, following the court ruling that he has no right to refuse based on the Fifth Amendment, the remedy is more time in prison, until he sees the light.

So why exactly is the NCC’s Internet arm trying so hard to get this guy out of jail?