Sami Al-Arian, formerly a professor at the University of South Florida, will be credited for the three years and three months he has already served since his arrest in Tampa, Florida.
The four year and nine month prison sentence is the maximum penalty for the charge to which Al-Arian pleaded guilty last month in an agreement in which he admitted providing support to members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the 1980s and 1990s.
The PIJ, which is on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organisations, has been behind numerous suicide bombings against Israel, and claimed credit for an April 17 attack in Tel Aviv that killed nine people.
In his guilty plea in April, Al-Arian admitted that he performed favours for the PIJ, including filing for immigration benefits for members of the organisation and hiding the identities of those associated with the PIJ, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.
’Prisoner of hysteria’
US District Court Judge James Moody imposed the sentence saying Al-Arian was a “master manipulator” and a “leader” of the PIJ, the statement said.
A jury had earlier acquitted Al-Arian, 48, on eight counts of supporting terror groups, but the judge in those hearings declared a mistrial after the panel failed to render a complete verdict on all the charges, allowing the government to press for a new trial.
The court also ordered that the former professor be deported after he completes his sentence, the justice department statement said.
Al-Arian, born in Kuwait of Palestinian refugees, was raised in Egypt and has lived in the United States for more than 30 years.
He has denied advocating violence and alleged he has been persecuted because of his outspoken views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I’m a prisoner because of the hysteria engulfing this country in the aftermath of the 9-11 tragedy,” he said on December 6 after his acquittal, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.