Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sami al-Arian Is Acquitted

The jury in Florida has found Sami al-Arian not guilty on eight of the charges against him; in particular, of conspiracy to commit racketeering, and conspiracy to murder and maim people abroad:

A former Florida professor was acquitted on a key charge today that he helped lead a Palestinian terrorist group that has carried out suicide bombings against Israel.

In one of the biggest courtroom tests yet of the Patriot Act's expanded search and surveillance powers, the jury acquitted Sami Al-Arian on eight of the 17 counts against him. The jury deadlocked on the others.

The jury deadlocked on the others including charges he aided terrorists. Al-Arian will go back to jail until prosecutors decide whether to retry him on the deadlocked counts.

I guess the Patriot Act's expanded search and surveillance powers aren't testing out very well, huh?

Now, let's look at Sami al-Arian and the charges against him:

The indictment of Sami Al-Arian is damning. It alleges that this former professor at the University of South Florida was the head of the American wing of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He also held a key position in the group’s worldwide leadership and even established a cell of the terrorist group at his university.

From the looks of the indictment, he has been an active leader. He helped sponsor conferences at which Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a principal conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, addressed adoring crowds. He established a think tank called the World and Islam Studies Enterprises and hired Ramadan Abdullah Shallah to run it. Shallah went on to become the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Al-Arian used his professorial status, according to the indictment, to bring other members of his terrorist group into this country "under the guise of academic conferences and meetings." He helped Palestinian Islamic Jihad members "receive cover as teachers or students" at USF. He also worked to strengthen Islamic Jihad’s ties with other terrorist groups — principally Hamas and Hezbollah.

The indictment also makes clear that Al-Arian knew about and approved of the primary mission of Palestinian Islamic Jihad: bringing death and suffering to the perceived enemies of Islam. When two Islamic Jihad suicide bombers killed eighteen people in Israel in 1995, Al-Arian called them "two mujahidin martyred for the sake of God." Mujahidin are warriors of jihad.

Islamic Jihad has killed scores of others in Israel, both by suicide bombing and simple assassination. These include not only soldiers but a taxi driver named Ilan Sudri; a 20-year-old American woman, Alisa Flatow; a 73-year-old woman named Sylvia Bernstein; and numerous other civilians.

Al-Arian has been under suspicion for years now. As long ago as 1994, Steve Emerson’s PBS documentary, Jihad in America, identified the professor as the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s American group. Federal officials began to investigate him for terrorist activities in 1996, and that investigation continued until the indictment was issued (in 2003).