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Arabic studies professor detained in Florida

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Palestinian professor in Florida, who was jailed for more than three years for alleged terrorist attacks before being freed late last year, was detained Saturday for violating his visa, the Justice Department said.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service took Mazen Al-Naijar, who taught Arabic at the University of South Florida, into custody near Tampa. The move followed a federal appeals court ruling that Al-Naijar be deported to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.


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The INS said such detentions are common when an individual is deemed "a flight risk, a threat to the community or a threat to national security."

The Justice Department accuses Al-Naijar of holding leadership positions for the Tampa-based Islamic Concern Project (ICP) and the World and Islam Studies Enterprise. The organization "raised funds for militant Islamic-Palestinian groups," including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the department said. "Furthermore, Al Najjar's Tampa-based ICP was responsible for petitioning for other known terrorists to obtain visas to enter the United States," the department said.

Al-Naijar was first detained in 1997 for overstaying his visa, and spent the next 3 years in prison because secret evidence allegedly linked him to terrorists. A judge later ruled that Al-Naijar's rights to due process had been violated and freed him last December.

Al-Naijar, denying any wrongdoing, said he was never formally charged with a crime or told specifically why he was detained.

"I have never been a member of any Palestinian organization or any militant organization," he said earlier this year. "I have never practiced violence."

Al-Naijar came to the United States in 1981, eventually settling in Tampa where he raised a family, taught Arabic and served as a Muslim cleric.



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