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Ex-prof's terrorism trial set to begin (5/15)

May. 15, 2005
Miami Herald

The terrorism trial of a former University of South Florida professor, which starts Monday, touches on issues critical to the nation.
By Martin Merzer AND Phil Long
Link: Click here
After 814 days in prison, many of them spent in solitary confinement, former professor Sami Al-Arian goes on trial this week, charged with commanding a terrorist cell that flourished in Tampa and infiltrated the University of South Florida...

The indictment, issued with considerable drama in February 2003 as the nation prepared for war in Iraq and searched for the masterminds of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also charges the defendants with racketeering, conspiracy and extortion.

Inherently complex -- the 159-page indictment includes 53 counts and the docket already contains 1,032 documents -- the case touches on many issues now confronting Americans:

The real but often camouflaged threat of terrorism. Inflammatory political campaigns in Florida. The fairness and competence of the media. The proper balance between prosecutorial vigilance and extremism.

''The tension is that we want the government to be aggressive and to root out terrorists,'' said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. ``But, of course, we are always concerned, and I think rightly so, that the government may overstep its bounds.''

...Al-Arian's attorneys say he is being punished for his pro- Palestinian views and is a victim of anti-Muslim bias and post-Sept. 11 hysteria. They say his activities, which appear nefarious when extracted in the indictment, were designed to raise money for Palestinian charities.

During a 1998 interview with The Herald, while under investigation, Al-Arian said:

``What is it that we have done that has made these people decide they will get us through any means? What is it? Because we have strong advocacy for the Palestinian people, that's why they want to get us? What have we done? Everything was in the open. We didn't do anything in secret.''

...Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in Tampa's federal courthouse, but the proceedings might be abbreviated. Defense attorneys maintain that the trial should be moved because the jury pool was hopelessly tainted by hyperaggressive media coverage and by political opportunists during last year's U.S. Senate campaign in Florida.

''We took a magnifying glass, put it between the sun and the issue and just burned everybody's retinas with this thing,'' Jewett said. ``It was really something.''


Some evidence exists to support that -- 155 of the first 328 questionnaires returned by prospective jurors showed such abundant bias that the respondents were swiftly disqualified.

Three other defendants will stand trial with Al-Arian -- Sameeh Hammoudeh, 44, a former USF instructor and student; Ghassan Zayed Ballut, 43, of Tinley Park, Ill.; and Hatem Naji Fariz, 32, of Spring Hill, Fla. Other defendants are at large overseas or otherwise unavailable for trial.

None of the defendants is accused of having links to al Qaeda or of fomenting violence in the United States. In fact, they are not accused of committing violence anywhere.

''I said it before, I'll say it again,'' lead prosecutor Walter E. Furr III told the court in March 2003. ``There's no allegation that any of these defendants personally participated in the commission of violent crimes. We just don't have that.''

Instead, prosecutors believe that defendants worked behind the scenes, raising and distributing money that funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide bombings and other terrorist acts in Israel and the territories. In some cases, the government says, this money was paid to the families of suicide bombers and jailed terrorists.

Al-Arian consistently has declared his innocence, saying he avidly supports Palestinian independence and claiming a deep-seated aversion to violence against civilians in Israel or elsewhere.

''It is wrong,'' he told The Herald in 1998. ``Anything that has to do with civilian casualties, it is just morally wrong, religiously wrong as well as politically wrong. How can you get people with you when you're doing that?''

...And the indictment describes hundreds of intercepted phone calls, faxes and other encounters that involved the defendants. The government hopes those will be seen as nurturing a conspiracy that took advantage of the freedoms of expression and travel available in the United States.

Inconveniently for the prosecution, many of those incidents occurred before January 1995, when the U.S. government branded Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist group and barred financial transactions with it.

When the original indictment was announced on Feb. 20, 2003, and Al- Arian was jailed without bond, officials trumpeted their actions.

''We will hunt down the suppliers of terrorist money, we will shut down their sources and we will ensure that both terrorists and their financiers meet the same swift, certain justice of the United States of America,'' said then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Al-Arian was described in that indictment as ``the leader of the [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] in the United States.''

Last September, the government quietly filed a superseding indictment.

Among the changes: No longer was Al-Arian described as the group's U.S. leader.

Al-Arian, who was born in Kuwait of Palestinian parents, arrived in the United States in 1975 and worked as an engineering professor at USF, where few if any students complained about his political views. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, made headlines when he was held on secret evidence for three years and deported in 2002.


The first challenge for all involved, especially U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr., will be jury selection.

The defense says the trial must be moved because potential jurors have been exposed to aggressive and intemperate local media coverage, especially by The Tampa Tribune, which has published hundreds of stories about Al-Arian, some of them cast in lurid terms.

Defense attorneys also cite the U.S. Senate campaign.

First, U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch took on former USF President Betty Castor in the Democratic primary, loudly accusing her of knowingly harboring terrorists on her campus. It didn't work.

Then, Republican candidate Mel Martinez adopted an even more strident approach to the same issue, saturating the airwaves with so many Al-Arian ads that the average TV viewer in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando saw them 40 times, according to the Martinez campaign. Martinez defeated Castor.

''I haven't seen a criminal case that was a focus of a campaign and became such a visible political issue,'' said Lance deHaven-Smith, a political science professor at Florida State University.

Judge Moody has deferred a decision but has signaled that he is considering a change of venue.

One possible trial site: Arlington, Va.

Documents & Releases

Statement of Chairs of American Muslim Task-Force on Civil Rights and Elections  (AMT) and  Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Howard Zinn Statement on Professor Al-Arian



March 2000

December 2005alarian.jpg

January 2009

To be patriotic is to be able to question government policy in times of crisis.
To be patriotic is to stand up for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in times of uncertainty and insecurity.
To be patriotic is to  speak up against the powerful in defense of the weak and the voiceless.
To be patriotic is to be willing to pay the price to preserve our freedoms, dignity, and rights.
To be patriotic is to
challenge the abuses of the PATRIOT Act.
From a speech by Dr. Al-Arian


UFF Summary: Al-Arian and USF


Announcement of Book: The Al-Arian Reader

A new compilation of all relevant articles to be released soon by the National Liberty Fund

Selected Poems
by Sami Al-Arian

We Shall Rise

To Maya Angelou
Like the dream of the slave
You rise
And with the scream of the brave
I shall rise
In honoring the memory of your ancestors
You rise
With my stateless brothers and sisters
I shall rise
Like dust in the sunlight
You rise
And as ashes in a fiery night
I shall rise
You offend
Because of your existence
And I
For my resistance
You upset them
Recalling their past
And I
By holding steadfast
They may trod you in dirt
May cause me all the hurt
Inflict upon you excruciating pain
While they shut me up and detain
By they won't see you broken
Neither would my faith be forsaken
As you've never bowed your head
And never lowered your eyes
I'll continue to raise my fist
And hide my mother's cries
They may shoot you with their words
Cut me up with their swords
They may insult you with their eyes
Denigrate me with their lies
Trying to kill you with their hate
Bury me alive to seal my fate
But they'd certainly
Be shamed and fail
As the free chant and sing
On their march to prevail
So keep your head held high
As I follow you and try
And keep your beautiful smile
As I walk my first mile
They'll pressure and blame
Throw us in prison to control and tame
They'll exile and defame
Lynch us all or shoot and maim
Burn crosses with no shame
Target our children in a dirty game
By why is that a surprise?
Despite their evil and terror
Their falsehood and lies
You shall rise
And I shall rise
You're the black ocean
Leaping and wide
I'm the Mediterranean
With a stormy tide
Staying together
Side by side
It's no surprise
We shall rise
Surely shall rise
We together shall rise
No Longer Afraid
For us to feel "secure"
What price is being paid?
If living in freedom
Why are we afraid?
Fear is everywhere
All around
Perhaps irrational
But without any bound
You can see it on our faces
Sense it in our eyes
You can hear it in our whispers
Feel it in our cries
More>>No Longer Afraid
The Bird and The Vulture
The bird was chirping
In a house on a tree
But the vulture was angry
Because it was free
When the bird is singing
The vulture ain't safe
More>>The Bird and The Vulture
The Smile of Freedom
He looked like
A body-builder
Tall, tough, and full
All muscles and no fat
His mind was simple
Suited to follow orders
No questions asked
Acting mean and mechanical
Like any bureaucrat
More>>The Smile ...
In the Name of Freedom
In the name of freedom
We shall rule the world
To spread democracy
And set you free
In the name of freedom
We’ll descend on you
To make you civilized
Modern and orderly
More>>In the Name ...
The Accused: Franz Kafka Meets George Orwell in 21st Century America
Act I: The Mother of all Evidence
Act II- Weapons of Mass Deception
Act III: Silencing of the Lambs
Act IV: Attacks of the Wolves
Act V: Occupied Territory
Act VI: Police State
Act VII: Official Obituary
Act VIII: A Close Encounter of the Scariest Kind
Act IX: The Inquisition
Act X- Conspiracy Theory
Act XI- Secret Trials
Act XII- Silent Pain and Teary Eyes
Act XIII- True Patriot Acts
Do Not Sign
Rights are not for sale
History is not kind
On those who sell their people out,
Betray their cause,
Surrender their land
To tow the line
Do not sign
More>>Do Not Sign
Rachel Corrie: Daughter of Palestine
The most gentle
Amongst all honorable
Had a spirit
As dazzling as
The garden of
More>>Daughter of Palestine
Ole Jerusalem
O Ole Jerusalem
I feel your pain
I hear your cries
The light thunder
In the darkness
And the heavy rain
I see the steady bleeding
Of your wound
With its mark and stain
More>>Ole Jerusalem
Patrick Henry
A revolutionary
At heart
A patriot
From the start
Loved by his country
To the core
Defended freedom
Even more
Hated arrogance
In shape and tone
Fought tyranny
With every bone
He was the conscience
Of his people
Striking fear in the enemy
And made it feeble
More>> Patrick Henry
An overwhelming feeling
Of bitterness
Of hatred and rage
Trapped in a cage
Disappointment and anger
Continuing to linger
Wounding of dignity
Violating your virginity
More>> Injustice
Political Riddles
He sees the world as black and white
His solution to every quandary is fight with might
The economy will not stimulate
Because he can’t articulate
While jobs are gone
He says, “bring ‘em on.”
Who is he?
He likes to be called the General
The head of an agency that’s federal
If you spit on the sidewalk
He’ll send the Incredible Hulk
He hates to cite truth or fact
Because he’s busy promoting his unpatriotic act
He frequents TV cameras with a smash
The first part of his last name sounds like trash
Who is he?
He is the ideal dutiful poodle they say
From an empire where the sun did not set one day
He adores his cowboy friend and considers him a fan
And insists: I’m nobody’s yes-man
When the cowboy says no, I say no
Who is he?
More>>Political Riddles