Prosecutor's witness tells another point (10/4)
St. Petersburg Times
Oct. 4, 2005
By MEG LAUGHLIN
Link: Click here
A former math professor close to Sami Al-Arian says discussing the
PIJ is like "watching CNN or Fox."
TAMPA - A moment of unexpected high drama in the trial of Sami Al-
Arian left a government witness in tears and a federal prosecutor
Prosecutor Terry Furr hoped to nail down incriminating evidence
against Al-Arian and two other defendants Monday by questioning a
former University of Mississippi math professor who has known Al-
Arian for years.
But the prosecution's witness backfired, repeatedly challenging
Furr's understanding of how information spread among Palestinians
and what support of the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad among
Palestinians often meant.
The witness, Abdul Raouf Dabus, received government immunity to
testify about a 1994 phone conversation he had with Al-Arian. The
two men talked about how much Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and
the Palestine Liberation Organization were participating in, or
shunning, peace talks. Furr focused on the conversation as evidence
that Al-Arian was an insider in the terrorist group Palestinian
But Dabus repeatedly said the information in their conversation
was "public information" and that Palestinians needed the
charitable "benefits of the PIJ" and Hamas and the PLO, "because
that was all there was to help them" when Al-Arian and he talked in
In a quiet voice, he told Furr, "You don't understand."
Dabus likened the phone conversations between Palestinians about PIJ
and Hamas activities, violent or charitable, to "watching CNN or
"You get one part of the story from one place and you keep asking
because you want to get the truth. The information keeps going back
and forth," he said.
Furr asked Dabus if he was a member of the PIJ. Dabus said he was
not but that he supported the PIJ's charitable work in Israel's
occupied territories. He likened the community work of the PIJ,
Hamas and the PLO in the mid '90s to groups in New Orleans now.
"They are refugees who need help," Dabus said. "It doesn't matter if
the help comes from Jews, Muslims or Christians. They need help and
every Palestinian has this support in his heart."
At one point Furr, who was getting increasingly annoyed with his own
witness, said to Dabus, "You said you thought you knew Mr. Al-Arian
pretty well. Well, do you know if he sent money to the families of
Dabus responded that the money he knew about, which came through Al-
Arian's co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh, "went for a bookstore and an
During cross-examination from a defense attorney, Dabus said he
feared Palestinians could no longer speak their minds in the United
States about the occupied territories. He worried aloud, "There is
no longer any security for the dog that barks in this country."
He said he asked himself what it meant if someone as prominent
as "Sami Al-Arian, who had been to the White House and who had the
support of so many people in Congress, could suddenly be put in
Bill Moffitt, Al-Arian's attorney, seizing the moment, asked Dabus
if the answer scared him. In response, the government witness, whom
the prosecution has put on at the end of its case, answered that it
did scare him and explained, as his voice cracked with emotion, "Our
kids, will they have a future here? I don't know."
The courtroom fell silent, as several jurors and onlookers stared at
him, then wiped their eyes.
Furr's last question on redirect: "Did Sami Al-Arian raise money to
send the PIJ?"
Dabus replied that the only money he knew about went to
charity, "for a good purpose."