Al-Arian's lawyer: Translations 'sloppy' (5/18)St. Petersburg Times
May 18, 2004
Many conversations in the indictment were in Arabic, and prosecutors say no translation can be perfect.
By Graham Brink
Link: Click hereTAMPA - Sami Al-Arian's attorney told a judge Monday that he has found numerous discrepancies in the translations of secretly taped conversations prosecutors used to indict his client on terrorism charges.
Even some of the government's own versions of particular conversations do not match, Bill Moffitt said.
"It becomes clear that the government was very sloppy in making this indictment," he said.
Federal agents arrested Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor, and three other men in February 2003 on charges that they supported and raised funds for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group.
Agents had taped thousands of telephone conversations over the past decade - most of them in Arabic - while Al-Arian was under surveillance.
Moffitt's allegations arose Monday as he asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun to order prosecutors to turn over the names of the translators who listened to the conversations. Moffitt said he feels he should be able to question the translators at Al-Arian's trial - scheduled for next January - about how they arrived at their translations.
As an example, Moffitt pointed to one paragraph from the indictment that states Al-Arian "sarcastically" chided fellow defendant Hatem Fariz in 2002 for sounding upset about a suicide bombing that was in the news. Moffitt said that the government's own transcript reveals that the conversation was not sarcastic, and that the two men were not even talking about the suicide bombing.
Moffitt did not want to give any other examples because he feared prosecutors would "sanitize this whole situation" by filing a cleaned- up indictment. Moffitt wants to use what he has found at trial. He said he was willing to provide the judge with his findings, as long as they remained for his eyes only.
"I don't want the government to know what I have found," Moffitt said. "Why should I provide the government with my defense?"
Prosecutor Terry Zitek told the judge on Monday that no translation can be perfect. If his colleagues find inaccuracies, they will clear them up, Zitek said.
McCoun did not rule. He is expected to release a written order on a number of issues shortly.
In another matter, Moffitt asked McCoun to order the prosecutors to turn over more records about the times FBI agents went to Al-Arian over the past dozen or so years for information on Middle Eastern issues.
Moffitt said he needs the information to help show that the FBI was using Al-Arian as a source at the same time it was investigating him. The relationship belies the image of Al-Arian as a "monster to be feared," Moffitt said.
"The FBI goes to a terrorist for information. Give me a break," Moffitt said outside the courthouse.
Moffitt said he anticipated some surprises in the list of witnesses he might call to testify at the trial.
Earlier this year, Al-Arian's lawyers accused the government of withholding taped conversations that he had with political figures, including U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Karl Rove, a top adviser to President Bush.
The tapes will show that Al-Arian talked frequently with officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations about the unfairness of using secret evidence in court proceedings, Moffitt said.
The attorney could highlight the relationships in an attempt to undermine the government's contention that Al-Arian was a terrorist.
Al-Arian also met President Bush. Moffitt stopped short of saying that he would call the president to testify.
"If I had some reason to do it, I'd do it," he said. "It needs to be fully considered."