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Recent News: 3/29/03 -

From a Distance

The Dismissal of Professor al-Arian

Links since March 28, 2003

This is the page of the latest news on the dispute between the University of South Florida and USF Professor Sami Al-Arian. UFF is no longer assisting Al-Arian in his confrontation with the USF Board of Trustees, and as of March 29, this site is no longer being updated at the same comprehensive level as before. However, major events are still being noted.

These links are in a very rough reverse chronological order, and will be updated as events develop. Again, links marked with an asterisk (*) are to the LEXIS-NEXIS site: this is restricted to on-campus users and requires that the user do a search; two asterisks (**) apply to other restrictions.

WARNING ABOUT `LINK ROT': Some websites take pages down, or restrict access to them, after some time passes. So unfortunately, some of the links on these pages will be inoperative. However, most of the items can be found by searching lexis-nexis.

Here are links back to the site map, to the main Al-Arian page of this site, and to the main UFF/USF page.

... no grievance
... is a fit object
of redress
by mob law.

- Abraham Lincoln

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A Greater Circle
3/20/03 - 3/28/03


Contempt Charges Dropped, But is the Opera Over...?

On 27 June 2014, the federal government dropped contempt charges against Al-Arian, theoretically enabling the deportation process to move forward. (Al-Arian had been acquitted of almost all charges, and had bargained guilty pleas on the remainder. But the government demanded that he testify in other cases, Al-Arian claimed that the plea agreement excluded that requirement, hence the contempt charges.) In the U. S. Department of Justice Motion to Dismiss, U. S. Attorney Dana Boente argued that
The United States reaffirms the evaluations of the merit of the prosecution that were made in 2008 and again in 2010. Nevertheless, in light of the passage of time without resolution, the United States has decided that the best available course of action is to move to dismiss the indictment so that action can be taken to remove the defendant from the United States in accordance with the Judicial Order of Removal issued on May 1, 2006, by United States District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., in the Middle District of Florida.
(As of 28 June, the court had not posted the motion on their Notable Cases page, but WTSP-Sarasota had.) Most, but not all, observers expect Al-Arian to be deported shortly.

That was then; this is now

On Wednesday, March 4, the U.S. Attorney admitted to the court what Al-Arian's attorneys had been claiming all along: that both Al-Arian's attorneys and the U.S. Department of Justice attorneys in Tampa had understood the plea agreement to exempt Al-Arian from having to testify in other cases, according to the March 6 report Federal judge says Sami Al-Arian plea deal does matter in the St. Petersburg Times. The Department of Justice then turned surreal, arguing that "The understandings of the prosecutors who negotiated that agreement ... are irrelevant to (Al-Arian's) guilt or innocence" of contempt. The Department of Justice argued that Al-Arian was supposed to have been readily deported, but because he had not been readily deported (because of machinations of the Department of Justice), the commitment no longer applied. The court dispensed with this insult to the court's mental processes, responding with, "This is not one U.S. Attorney's Office vs. another. ... You have the United States Department of Justice ... involved at both ends," with the obvious implication that the U.S. Department of Justice is bound by the commitments made by the U.S. Department of Justice. The court then postponed the beginning of the contempt trial, date to be determined later.


And this is Continuing Because...

On December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, Al-Arian released a statement to be read over Greek television (along with a broadcast of U.S. v. al-Arian) and later at Amnesty International's Movies that Matter Festival at The Hague.

  • By some coincidence, the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Justice sent a letter to Al-Arian's attorney, Jonathan Turley, stating that Al-Arian had been verbally and physically abused during his hunger strike in early 2007. The letter, which neither the Department of Justice nor Turley appear to have posted (Turley used to be posting updates on the Al-Arian case, but he stopped this August because of judicial grumping), said that a guard who was strip searching him uttered obscenities, some of them against Islam, and later pushed Al-Arian against a wall. The account in the Dec. 11, 2008 St. Petersburg Times, Justice Department letter confirms Al-Arian abused by guards, reported that the matter had been referred to the Bureau of Prisons for administrative action.
On January 17, 2009, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Judge sets trial for Sami Al-Arian on criminal contempt charge starting on March 9. The Associated Press story posted by the Tampa Tribune on January 16, Al-Arian Criminal Contempt Case To Move Forward reported that, "Defense lawyers sought to quash the indictment. They argued Al-Arian was being singled out unfairly and that prosecutors had improperly drafted the paperwork compelling Al-Arian's testimony," but that, "In earlier hearings, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had indicated that she agreed with the defense. But at a hearing Friday in Alexandria, Brinkema rejected the defense motions and set a March 9 trial date."
spacer Then at a hearing on Friday, February 20, 2009, Al-Arianís current lawyer, John Turley, put his clientís position on the plea bargain in particularly stark terms, and at one point actually proposed putting federal lawyers under oath. Al-Arianís former lawyers, William Moffitt and Linda Moreno, composed affidavits asserting that they had indeed negotiated a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that included an understanding that Al-Arian would not cooperate with federal investigations, and that to the best of their knowledge (which included extensive past experience), the federal lawyers they negotiated with understood that non-cooperation included testifying before a grand jury.
  • "In my many years as a criminal defense attorney, I have never witnessed this type of bait-and-switch of a client," wrote Moffitt. "Before this case, it was understood that lawyers of good-faith would fulfill their clear agreements."
  • "Since Mr. Moffitt and I negotiated the terms and conditions of this plea agreement with the Justice Department, I have watched, in horror, Mr. Kromberg manipulate and pervert its meaning to this Honorable Court," wrote Moreno. "As a defense attorney, my sense of confidence in dealing with the Department of Justice has been undermined by the blind eye that the AUSA of the Eastern District of Virginia has turned to our honestly brokered negotiations in the Middle District of Florida."
The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that at the hearing, Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the "government must provide information to the defense and the court regarding the original 2006 plea negotiations between the Department of Justice and Dr. Al-Arian's attorneys."


Released...Sort of

The question at the end of August was...why was Al-Arian still detained? As Al-Arianís attorneys complained in yet another habeas corpus petition, if the government Al-Arian had been ordered released on bond, his continued detention became illegal forty days ago under current law, and besides that the ICE is not returning the attorneys' phone calls. The New York Sun, reporting that Al-Arian files Habeas for Release, commented that "the legal authority for protracted detention of an immigrant the government is not seeking to deport is murky," and said that ICE had no comment. Meanwhile, as a sign of how keeping this going is keeping this in the news, the St. Petersburg Times ran an article on Sept. 1 on Life once in shambles, former USF instructor Al-Najjar builds new one; Steve Emerson took exception, writing in Family Security Matters that Newspaper Whitewashes Story of Man Linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Then on Tuesday, September 2, Al-Arian was released from Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia.
The release attracted some attention.

  • The St. Petersburg Times reported on Sept. 3 that Al-Arian, ex-USF professor, released from prison, and that U.S. Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered that Al-Arian's criminal contempt trial be postponed until the U.S. Supreme Court can hear the case. The Times also reported that Brinkema expressed "significant concerns about (the) conduct" of the prosecution and that she would look into the "validity of the (prosecutor's) immunity order" that lies near the heart of the contempt charge.
  • The Washington Post reported on Sept. 3 that Ex-Professor in Palestinian Case Is Freed After 5 Years, and that Al-Arian will be electronically monitored as he is detained at his daughter's house (the Times had reported that he would be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet).
  • John Sugg, who is writing a book on the case, told the Institute for Public Accuracy that: "Why and when was al-Arian important? Why did a rogue prosecutor in Virginia seek to keep him in jail? The answers go back more than a decade, when Israel's Likudniks in the United States, such as [journalist] Steve Emerson, were working feverishly to undermine the Oslo peace process. ... Al-Arian ... was vigorously trying to communicate with our government and its leaders. He was being successful, making speeches to intelligence and military commanders at MacDill AFB's Central Command, inviting the FBI and other officials to attend meetings of his groups. People were beginning to listen and to wonder why only one side of the Middle East debate was heard here. That was the reason for al-Arian's political prosecution, and for his recent jailing..."
  • As of 3:12 pm, Google News reported 367 articles under "al-arian", including 197 apparently recent ones, ranging from the Counterterrorism Blog's Al-Arian Released On Bail (which began with the line, "Sami Al-Arian, convicted of supporting the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)..."), to UPI's report that Muslim group praises professor's release, which quoted a statement from the Muslim Public Affairs Council that "Since his arrest five years ago, al-Arian's case has become an example of what many American Muslims perceived to be numerous post-9/11 political persecutions of individuals using tactics that amount to little more than guilt by association."
  • There was some international coverage, including the Pakistan Daily Times report that Palestinian professor free at last to Al Jazeera's report that US 'terror' suspect freed from jail.
Meanwhile, Google reported "about 3,060,000" hits for "al-arian, leading with Wikipedia, Free Sami Al-Arian, and the unrelated AlArian Investment Services; the fourth was Steve Emerson's National Review article, The Al-Arian Times, accusing the New York Times of becoming "the latest tool in an aggressive lobbying campaign aimed at sabotaging a continuing terror investigation in northern Virginia." This site had drifted off of page one to page two, number 13 in Google's ranking.
  • Meanwhile, the courts continued to rule on the issues, one by one. In January, 2008, the 11th Circuit Court had ruled in USA v. Sami Amin Al-Arian that just because the written plea agreement had not explicitly required Al-Arian to cooperate didn't mean that Al-Arian could not be compelled to testify before a grand jury (it seems that there was also some kind of oral agreement that Al-Arian wouldn't agree to testify, but the courts have systematically steered clear of the oral agreement issue). On October 6, the Supreme Court decided not to hear Al-Arian's appeal, letting stand the 11th Circuit Court ruling against Al-Arian. The Associated Press reported on October 6 in Terror case: Top court wonít hear ex-profís appeal that Al-Arian's attorneys are contending that the paperwork is not in order, and that the paperwork issue must be resolved before the Al-Arian can be tried for contempt for not testifying. AP reported that Al-Arian could face life in prison if convicted.


If At First You Don't Succeed...

Jonathan Turley, J.B. and Maurice Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, and Director of the Environmental Law Advocacy Center and Executive Director of the Project for Older Prisoners, and, according to Wikipedia, author of over 500 mainstream articles and involved in litigation involving black bag jobs conducted under FISA, nuclear couriers at Oak Ridge, and Area 51. Now lead counsel for Al-Arian, he posted on his blog (of course he has a blog) on March 3 that for the third time, Al-Arian was being called before a grand jury. The Justice Department Calls Dr. Sami Al-Arian Before Third Grand Jury briefly outlines Al-Arian's past refusals to testify and concludes with the statement:

spacer On behalf of Mr. Olson and Mr. Meitl and the entire legal team, I wanted to express our great disappointment in the decision of the Justice Department to continue this effort to mete out punishment that it could not secure from a jury. Having lost the case in Florida, the Justice Department has openly sought to extend his confinement by daisy-chaining grand juries. As in other cases, the government has given Dr. Al-Arian the choice of an obvious perjury trap or a contempt sanction. It is a choice that is obnoxious to our legal system and contrary to any standard of decency. The mistreatment of Dr. Al-Arian remains an international symbol of how the Bush Administration has discarded fundamental principles of fairness in a blind pursuit of retribution against this political activist. We stand committed to fighting this great injustice and hopefully reuniting Dr. Al-Arian with his family and friends. spacer
That evening, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian had begun a third hunger strike. The announcement included the concern that the Department of Justice was not acting in good faith:
spacer Dr. Al-Arian's attorneys argue that forcing him to testify is a clear violation of the plea agreement he reached with the government in the spring of 2006. Further, Dr. Al-Arian has been advised that the grand jury subpoena is a ploy by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg to ensnare him in a perjury trap, as he has done to at least one another Muslim defendant. spacer
By March 5, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian had been moved to the medical unit.
spacer On March 7, Truthdig described Al-Arian's Third Strike, which included a statement that Al-Arian had already lost fifteen pounds (!), and that he had released a statement that "A great nation is ultimately defined and judged by its system of justice ... When the system is manipulated by the powerful and tolerates abuses against the minorities or the weak members of society, the government not only loses its moral authority and betrays future generations, but will also be condemned by history." Truthdig also suggested that there was a written record of the non-cooperation agreement at the root of the dispute:
spacer The decision to call Al-Arian before the grand jury was made although Al-Arian had signed a "no-cooperation" agreement. The agreement stipulated that he would not be required to cooperate with the government in other cases. The governmentís attempt to force him to testify, despite the agreement, came a month before his scheduled release. It is seen by his lawyers and his family as an effort by the government to keep the activist in jail indefinitely. spacer
In mid-April, the situation got more tense.

  • The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced on April 11 -- Al-Arian's prospective release date before the grand jury investigation -- that he had lost 34 pounds in this hunger strike. On April 12, according to the TBCJP, Al-Arian was transferred to the Special Housing Unit to be held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The TBJCP complained that conditions of his confinement were getting more harsh, and that officials were lying to the public and to each other about his situation.
  • The Tampa Tribune took a slightly different view, as was reflected in the headline of their April 15 story, "Al-Arian Placed In Hands Of Immigration Officials", and their April 16 story, "Transfer Of Al-Arian Might Signal Plan For Deportation".
Then on April 29, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian had suspended his hunger strike after losing over 40 lb, at the insistence of family and supporters.
spacer And then on June 26, 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Al-Arian for contempt of court for his refusal to testify. According to the Associated Press, Al-Arianís attorney Jonathan Turley said that "After failing to convict Dr. al-Arian before a Florida jury, the government has continued to use any and all means to prolong his confinement." AP also reported that U.S. Attorney spokesman Jim Rybicki declined to comment.
spacer The court may be a bit skeptical: on July 10, Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District Court of Virginia granted Al-Arian bail; according to the St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian Granted Bail, But Not Yet His Freedom, bail was set at $ 340,000, the amount currently in his pension fund. As mentioned in the headline, Al-Arian remains in custody during an, ahem, custody dispute: either Al-Arian is in custody of Immigration & Customs Enforcement and is subject to deportation -- something Justice seems loathe to do -- or he is under arrest pending trial for criminal contempt. Said Al-Arian's attorney, John Turley: "Either it must release him on bond or deport him very soon."
spacer On August 8, Al-Arianís criminal contempt trial scheduled for August 13 was postponed indefinitely pending an appeal on the legality of the immunity offer at the heart of the case, according to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace (TBCJP), which apparently posted an account; see also the AP story published in the Chicago Tribune. Prosecutors objected to releasing Al-Arian into the custody of one of his daughters because they claimed that the Al-Arianís come from a culture in which a daughter would not have sufficient influence or authority to keep her father from fleeing. Meanwhile, the media is becoming the issue. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg complained that former U.S. Senator (and former Democratic presidential candidate) Mike Gravel told a crowd to ďFind out where he [Kromberg] lives, find out where his kids go to school, find out where his office is, picket him all the time"; this statement was recorded in a tape that that the Investigative Project on Terrorism provided to Fox News. In court, Al-Arianís attorneys disavowed Gravelís comments, and then Al-Arianís attorney Jonathan Turley, who has been posting updates on the case on his blog, announced that because of the prosecutorsí complaints, ďwe have decided to remove the Al-Arian entries to avoid this issue from being cited in the future as a distraction from the important issues in the case," going on to say that, ďDocuments can still be obtained on the court site and various Al-Arian blog sites," which is not true Ė at least of transcripts, which would probably be the liveliest documents in the case.


Appeal Denied

On Friday, January 26, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals DENIED Al-Arianís appeal of the Florida District Court ruling that he can be compelled to testify before grand jury proceedings into the operations of Virginia charities. The court made this ruling after ruling that the case was not rendered moot by Judge Lee's ruling lifting the contempt ruling (below). The plea agreement Al-Arian made with the Department of Justice did not address the question of whether Al-Arian would be required to cooperate with related federal proceedings, but Al-Arianís lawyers contended that the government agreed orally that Al-Arian would not be compelled to cooperate (I have not seen ANY denial of the oral agreement by any official body, although the 11th circuit opinion described this agreement as "the governmentís alleged promise never to require his cooperation in any future capacity"; the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace contends that assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Zitek confirmed in court that the oral agreement was made, which brings us back to the Court's peculiar policy about transcripts of proceedings). The Florida District Court said that since the written plea agreement did not address this issue, Al-Arian could be compelled to testify, and on January 26, the 11th Circuit agreed, writing of a precedent of the same court, "we held that the plea agreement did not preclude the government from attempting to compel testimony from Perdue, and we so held even though we recognized that the government may have misled Perdue and that Perdue may have misunderstood the plea agreement." Afterwards, Al-Arianís attorney, C. Peter Erlinder, was quoted by AP saying of the ruling that "This is politics, this is not law."
spacer Meanwhile, as far as media profile goes, the Al-Arian case seems to be receding. Google lists only "about 26,500" hits for "al-arian" (with this page as eighth and Wikipediaís as first), and a cursory review of "about 90" (actually, 24) articles linked from Google News for "al-arian" reveal a few news stories about the denial and a number of columns mentioning Al-Arian in passing while concentrating on more recent events.


Contempt Lifted

Judge Gerald Bruce Lee was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by President Clinton in 1998, and unanimously confirmed. The district is known a "rocket docket" because of the (relative) speed with which it handles cases, and Lee himself coined the phrase "adrenaline of excellence". (The district also restricts on-line access to non-notable cases, and Al-Arian's contempt case was not "notable".) Elaine Cassel wrote in a Civil Liberties Watch posting on Judge Gerald Bruce Lee: Doing What Judges Are Supposed to Do that "The rocket docket favors the prosecutors, those well-heeled U.S. Attorneys who have no end to money and resources." Anyway, on December 13, 2007, Lee lifted the contempt charge against Al-Arian, so now the clock of his prison sentence is running again -- as of mid-December, 2007, he has four more months to go. If no more contempt charges are brought, he should complete his sentence as of April, 2008, when he would likely be deported (possibly to Egypt). On December 14, in its story on Al-Arian contempt charge is lifted, the St. Petersburg Times quoted one of Al-Arian's attorneys, Jonathan Turley, saying of the contempt charges (which were brought to induce him to testify to federal grand juries), "The use of civil contempt to prolong his punishment has been a shocking abuse of the system by the Justice Department."



Nahla Al-Arian had expressed concerns about the effect the maelstrom around her husband was having on her younger children. On June 21, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Al-Arian's wife, 2 children will move to Egypt, saying that Nahla would join her husband in Virginia briefly, and then take her two younger children to Egypt, where she has family. The St. Petersburg Times quoted her saying, "I love Egypt, but America is my home ... But living here is unsettling for Ali and Lama." In the Tampa Tribune's June 21 report, Al-Arian's Family Said To Be Leaving, Ahmed Bedier, Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ahmed Bedier, after a press conference on anti-Muslim bias, said that it would be easier for Nahla Al-Arian to support the family in Egypt.
spacer Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Coalition Coalition for Justice and Peace sent out a press release on June 21 regarding Sami Al-Arian's continued detention for Contempt of Court arising from his refusal to testify to a grand jury. According to the TBCJP, in a closed federal hearing, "Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia made a finding that further confinement may coerce his testimony." The release said that the judge had been persuaded of this because of "hundreds of letters and postcards" urging Al-Arian's release, in part because of his strong family ties; Lee purportedly said that those ties may induce Al-Arian to testify. (The TBCJP said that the letters were helpful in pressing the Inspector General of the Department of Justice into investigating alleged abuse of Al-Arian by prison guards and authorities.) It was not clear why the hearing was closed, and the TBCJP reported that the The New York Sun has filed an action to open the proceedings to the public.
spacer And the Norwegian documentary continued its travels, visiting Tampa again in early fall, and then arriving at USF on Friday, November 9. It received a largely positive review in the Nov. 13 USF Oracle, where the reviewer wrote that, "Halvorsen was able to convey the difficulty Sami Al-Arian had in receiving a fair trial from our post-9/11 judicial system," and quoted one of Al-Arian's attorneys, Linda Moreno, saying that, "He is treated harsher and with less respect than convicted criminals."


The Buzz at USF

The Norwegian documentary USA vs Al-Arian made its Tampa premier on May 16th, at 7:30 pm in Tampa Theatre (see also their their schedule, followed with a panel discussion including Linda Moreno, Defense Attorney; One of the Jurors from the trial; Line Halvorsen, Film Director; Abdullah Al-Arian, Sami's eldest son; Rob Lorei, WMNF News Director; Warren Clark, Pastor of First United Church of Tampa (UCC); and Pilar Saad, teacher at the Islamic Academy. The movie was primarily about the effect of the case on Nahla Al-Arian and her family, with little coverage of the trial itself. Coincidentally, among local news stories:

  • The April 27 USF Oracle reported that Al-Arian hinging hopes on June court date in Virginia.
  • The May 8 Tampa Tribune reported that one of the reporters who originally broke the story, Michael Fechter, an investigative reporter for the Tribune, was leaving to work for a website Steve Emerson (another of the original movers) is developing. The Tribune story, Michael Fechter Leaves Tribune, reported that Fechter will focus on "Islamic extremists" and quoted him saying, "I think what we learned in the Al-Arian saga is that there are people in this country who would prefer we not know exactly who they are and exactly what they're doing ... and to me this is a continuation of the journalistic enterprise to disclose that." (Editorial question / comment: what "people in this country" is Fechter referring to?) Tribune Executive Editor Janet Coats was quoted saying of Fechter, "He's always been a very careful and precise journalist ... If anything, he's erred on the side of being conservative in his approach to his reporting"; still, the Tribune reported that when Fechter gave his two weeks' notice, the Tribune told him to clear out by the end of the day. Emerson said Fechter should have won a Pulitzer for his coverage of the case.


A Rising Buzz

And now a Norwegian documentary has come out, "Usa Mot Al-Arian," (that's USA versus Al-Arian), an apparently low-budget affair as it does not seem to have its own English-language website. But it was significant enough to be reviewed by Variety, whose reviewer wrote that "Norwegian helmer Line Halvorsen constructs a damning portrait of the case by focusing on the trial's emotional toll. Docu picked up the Tromso fest's audience prize, signaling further fest play before possible cable pickup." norske Le Monde diplomatique's reviewer wrote (in a review entitled A Prisoner of Conscience in the USA) that "The documentary film USA versus Al-Arian (2007), directed by Line Halvorsen and recently shown at the Tromso International Film Festival, provides us with a grotesque example of the willingness of the American authorities to trample over the civil liberties of the individual to achieve political aims." On February 26, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Amnesty International-Norway had sponsored a screening of the film, followed by a reception at the Nobel Peace Center, and the next day the film was screened for some members of the Norwegian Parliament. Al-Arian's wife appeared at these events and read a statement composed by her husband.

Then on March 19, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian's family had just visited him to try to persuade him to end his hunger strike. The TBCJP said that this was the fifty-seventh day of the hunger strike, during which Al-Arian has lost 53 pounds. (In comparison, IRA member Bobby Sands died on the 66th day of his hunger strike.) Al-Arian's daughter was quoted saying, "Throughout our visit, he was shivering from low body temperature, and his voice was low and weak. He was in some considerable pain and discomfort just sitting there with us." The TBJCP release complained of a "media blackout" of Mr. Al-Arian's situation, and Ms. Al-Arian was quoted saying, "Although we understand and respect his decision to fast for justice, we are extremely worried for his life. I will return with my children later this week and once again try to convince him to end it."
  • One of the mainstream media did react, and on March 20, the St. Petersburg Times reported in Gaunt Al-Arian shocks family that Nikki Credic of the U.S. Marshals Service said, "We will not let him die. We will force feed him before that happens." But as of noon, March 20, of the 210 stories on "Al-Arian" linked from Google News, the Times story was the only one posted since the previous weekend, and the only "mainstream media" story posted since the New York Sun's Feb. 25 report Al-Arian Collapses From Effects of Water-Only Hunger Strike.
On May 23, the 4th circuit court of appeals was scheduled to issue its ruling on Al-Arian's appeal. Perhaps coincidentally, Al-Arian relented and stopped his hunger strike. Then the court issued its ruling - which it did not post - denying Al-Arian's appeal. Since the ruling was not posted, it is not clear what the grounds for denial were: while AP reported that the court ruled that "a cooperation clause was discussed during the plea negotiations, but was not agreed to and not included in the written plea agreement," but also that it "contains no language which would bar the government from compelling appellant's testimony before a grand jury" (different AP stories published March 23, 24 carried one or the other quote); but the court is scheduled to post its ruling on March 28. See the March 26 USF Oracle report Al-Arian ends hunger strike. Meanwhile, on Saturday, March 24, as the Herald-Sun reported, about 70 people participated in a Protest held over jailed professor outside the Butner prison grounds.
  • On April 11, the USF Oracle reported that Al-Arian to appeal court again. The report was accompanied by a photograph -- not posted on the Oracle's site -- of the Al-Arian family gathered around Al-Arian, who is in a wheelchair, visibly emaciated, but appearing to be in good spirits. Ms. Al-Arian -- who did not look in good spirits in the photo -- was quoted saying, "It is the atmosphere of our country that led to this, judges who are political appointees and activist judges"; this remark was apparently a response to the refusal of the U.S. Attorney to honor an apparent oral agreement not to compel Al-Arian to testify before a grand jury.
Then on April 13, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace issued a statement saying that Al-Arian had revisited an unspecified prison or jail in Petersburg, Virginia, where his legal papers were taken and where a guard who had accosted him before accosted him again, saying, "If I had my way, you wouldn't be in prison. I'd put a bullet in your head ..." The statement complained about conditions at Petersburg, and that Al-Arian's location was not disclosed to his family (as of 11:29 am, April 12, 2007, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator said that he was "in transit" (and that he had no actual "release date", while his projected release date was "unknown").


Back to the Limelights

After sentencing, Al-Arian had seemed quietly packed away in prison, and the media moved on to other things. For whatever reason, that was an unsatisfactory resolution for the Department of Justice, or at least for Eastern District of Virginia assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg, who required that Al-Arian testify before a grand jury investigating several Islamic charities. Al-Arian refused, and was found in contempt, and responded by starting a water-only hunger strike on January 22 (he is diabetic, making a water-only hunger strike somewhat risky). On February 7, he was interviewed on Democracy Now, which describes itself as "a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 450 stations in North America," and adding, "Democracy Now! is funded entirely through contributions from listeners, viewers, and foundations. We do not accept advertisers, donations from corporations, or donations from governments. This allows us to maintain our independence." The interview is posted on-line, and largely jumps around, with a few interesting revelations and accusations. Among these:

  • Al-Arian maintains that there was not only no agreement that he would cooperate in ensuing investigations, but in fact there was an agreement that he would not be compelled to cooperate. His lawyer, Peter Erlinder, agreed and said that Kromberg "has a pattern of calling before the grand jury or calling to his office Arab and Muslim defendants who have been acquitted. He then asks them questions and, based on what his interpretation of the truth is, then indicts them for lying either to the grand jury or lying to him as a federal official." (This time-honored tactic was standard operating procedure for the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.) Asked what he was being asked to testify about, Al-Arian responded "Well, Iím not really sure, because I donít believe that -- I think it's just a justification to ask me whatever they want." In fact, Al-Arian was concerned Mr. Kromberg was playing his game: "I think its' just a pretext to hold me either in contempt or charge me with perjury, because whatever I'm going to say, they're going to say, 'You lied.'"
  • Al-Arian said that he was a target of a longstanding campaign by "likudniks" going back to 1994. He said that he actively supported George W. Bush in 2000 because the Clinton administration was using secret evidence -- evidence the defense was not permitted to see -- against defendents. "The Bush campaign embraced us. And he said -- I mean, he talked in the second debate about how, you know, unjustly it is to use 'racial profiling,' he called it, in the name of secret evidence. And we endorsed him based on that promise."
  • Al-Arian also had something to say about USF. He claimed that USF President Judy Genshaft offered him $ 1 million to resign in summer, 2002, and then withdrew the offer at the behest of then-USF Board of Trustees Chair Dick Beard, who (according to Al-Arian) contacted then-Governor Jeb Bush to arrange something. (The February 8 St. Petersburg Times article USF considered $1M payoff to Al-Arian reported that Beard confirmed that the offer was considered: "The president (Judy Genshaft) and the lawyers felt that they were doing something to end the problems with Al-Arian, but I objected because I saw it as a payoff.") Al-Arian said that Bush needed time to make arrangements, and "so" USF sued him "in order to fire me" while Jeb Bush contacted Washington, and "we know the rest of the story."
Al-Arian returned several times to the "Guantanamo-like conditions" under which he was being held, including a number of details suggesting that the nine prisons that he had been in did not know what to do with him.
  • Before his conviction, he was the only non-convict at the prison (most defendents awaiting trial are locked up in jail; for a recent description of reporter Jacob Fries' visit to the Pinellas County jail, across the bay from Tampa, see the January 14 St. Petersburg Times feature Burden on the Block, and a description of the policy difficulties in Pinellas County Jail: The big picture). Al-Arian revisited the now-notorious security arrangements: he was in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, when his lawyer visited he was brought to the visiting rooms with his hands shackled behind his back, so he had to carry his books and notes on his back, (Q: You'd be bent over at a ninety-degree angle, to keep your documents on your back? A: Thatís right ...)
  • In one prison, he was in a cell (23 hours a day) in the female section. In another, "... it was very difficult, because in one hour -- and then they let 200 people out at one time; in one hour youíre supposed to get a shower, make a phone call, do whatever you want, and obviously have to wait in line on each and every one of them."
  • "And then, I was transferred to another prison in Petersburg, Virginia, in which I had clean clothes. They took the clean clothes and gave me dirty clothes and turnout clothes. And when I protested, you know, they started giving me obscenities. I had an undershirt, and it was almost twenty degrees, and they took the undershirt and they put it in the garbage. They took my sneakers."
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian has lost over 20 pounds and "Over 75 people have pledged to fast in solidarity with Dr. Al-Arian."
  • While all this was going on, Amnesty International's Program Director for the Americas Region sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez expressing AI's concern that Al-Arian's "conditions of confinement fail to meet international standards for humane treatment." Reviewing those conditions of Al-Arian's confinement, the letter stated that Al-Arian's "... treatment in prison ... is in breach of the USA's obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ...," Section 10.1 reading, "All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." The letter (which apparently has not been posted on-line) also expressed concerns that the decision to call Al-Arian before a grand jury was politically motivated -- or worse, motivated by the prosecutor's personal attitudes towards Islam.
  • According to Section 20.5 of the 2001 - 2003 BOR/UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has the same language as the 2004-2007 BOT/UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement, unless a grievant waives UFF representation, UFF is the exclusive representative of the grievant in the grievance. In 2003, al-Arian was pursuing a grievance against the USF Board of Trustees, and he was represented by the UFF. Nevertheless, UFF was not informed of the $ 1 million offer to al-Arian to settle the grievance until the Democracy Now! interview. So the UFF/USF Chapter has sent a formal letter to the USF administration asking for an explanation.
On February 12, the USF Oracle reported in their article Safety concerns spurred Al-Arian negotiations that Al-Arian's wife Nahla had urged Al-Arian to take the offer during the brief time that it appeared to be on the table. The Oracle reported Ms. Al-Arian saying that "The kids and I were worried about Sami's safety ... We felt that the government was not really protecting us, that the authorities at that time were not really friendly toward us, and we felt that they would allow crazy people to come and hurt us" and later "I remember Dateline showed something about Sami so inflammatory that when my kids saw it they started crying. They were very worried about their father. So that's the environment we were living in when the offer came."
  • On Tuesday, February 14, Al-Arian collapsed and hit his head. He was transferred to the Federal Medical Center at Butner, North Carolina, which is run by the Bureau of Prisons.


Where we are now

On February 2, the Special Collections department of the USF main library circulated a description of its collection of materials on Al-Arian collected thus far. It has 38 boxes containing 18 linear feet of material, from newspaper articles to memos. No court transcripts, alas, for the court charges $ 0.50 a page for copies (and although the court does generate PDF files, it is unwilling to share -- a policy for conspiracy theorists to mull over). This site is now about the size of a book -- ballpark estimate is somewhat under 100,000 words -- and Google now ranks it as fifth of "about 318,000" hits on "al-arian", of which Wikipedia's page (of course, at last) is first, Free Sami Al-Arian is second, Tampa Bay On-Line's page is third (TBO is shared by the Tampa Tribune and WFLA TV-8 "On Your Side"), and David Horowitz's Discover the Network page is sixth. Fourth is an unfortunately named investment group that is probably tired of the whole thing.


Virginia was Jefferson's State

The fight over Al-Arian's lack of cooperation in Virginia continued. On January 23, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian had begun a second hunger strike "to protest continued government harassment." The TBCJP announcement included a statement made by Al-Arian to the court in which he stated that in their negotiations with the prosecution leading to the plea agreement, the defense had discussed promising cooperation in return for a "guarantee" that the resulting sentence would be towards the low end of the recommended sentence; Al-Arian had decided against such a deal and that, he says, is how his sentence got on the high end. The implication is that the prosecution is out of line demanding cooperation anyway.
spacer According the the TBCJP report, Al-Arian continued to say, "I also would like to bring to the court's attention to the way I have been treated for the past three weeks. In the past three weeks, I have been to four prisons. I spent fourteen days in the Atlanta penitentiary under 23-hour lockdown, in a roach and rat infested environment. On two occasions, rats shared my diabetic snack. When I was transported from Atlanta to Petersburg (Virginia) and from Petersburg to Alexandria, they allowed me only to wear a t-shirt in subfreezing weather during long walks. In the early morning, the Atlanta guard took my thermal undershirt which I purchased from the prison and threw it in the garbage and when I complained, he threatened to use a lockbox on my handcuffs which would make them extremely uncomfortable. In Petersburg, the guard asked me to take off my clean t-shirt and boxers and gave me dirty and worn out ones. When I complained, he told me to `shut the f up.' And when I asked why he was treating me like that, he said `because you're a terrorist.' When I further complained to the lieutenant in charge, he shrugged it off and said if I don't like it, I should write a grievance to the Bureau of Prisons. When I said he had the authority to give me clean clothes, he refused and said if I don't like it I should write a grievance to the Bureau of Prisons. During one of the airlifts, an air marshal further tightened my already tightened handcuffs, and asked me `Why do you hate us?' I told him, `I don't hate you.' He said, `I know who you are, I've read your s-h-i-t.' These are examples of the government's harassment campaign against me that's been taking place for years because of my political beliefs --" And at this point, according to the TBCJP report, the judge cut Al-Arian off, saying that the court had no control over the Board of Prisons. (As this site has noted before, for some reason the docket does not post transcripts -- just the cover pages -- even though the court does circulate electronic copies of transcripts to counsel.) See also the January 24, 2007 USF Oracle report Al-Arian held in contempt, goes on hunger strike.


On to Virginia

Something appears to be up.

The U.S. Court of the Eastern District of Virginia handles some of the hottest cases of the War on Terror, including U.S. v. Zacarias Moussaoui, U.S. v. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, U.S. v. Masoud Khan, et. al., U.S. v. Jay Lentz, U.S. v. John Walker Lindh, and Yaser Hamdi v. Donald Rumsfeld. On Sept. 26, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Al-Arian ordered to testify in case: His ex-lawyer believes this is a ploy to further punish Al-Arian, who will likely not testify and will be held in contempt, reporting that Al-Arian has been moved to Virginia to appear before a grand jury at the Eastern District to testify about the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which had provided Al-Arian's World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE) with some of its initial funding. The Times reported that Al-Arian's formal counsel contended that the plea agreement had no provision for Al-Arian providing testimony, and that the subpoena is "... an outrageous violation of the agreement ... Sami is about finished and they're piling on."
spacer One of Al-Arian's attorneys, Jack Fernandez, asked Eastern District of Virginia assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg that Al-Arian not be moved to Virginia to testify during Ramadan, to which Kromberg allegedly replied, "they can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury, all they can't do is eat before sunset. I believe Mr. Al-Arian's request is part of the attempted Islamization of the American Justice System. I am not going to put off Dr. Al-Arian's grand jury appearance just to assist in what is becoming the Islamization of America." Then on Oct. 19, the 26th day of Ramadan in 2006, Al-Arian was called before the Grand Jury where he refused to testify, saying that "forced cooperation violated the plea agreement," but no such restriction appeared in the written plea agreement, and as reported in the Nov. 10 Tampa Tribune story Al-Arian Called To Testify, prosecutors responded that Al-Arian's rationale constituted "unilateral effort to rewrite his plea agreement." According to the Nov. 10 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian attorney charges bias: He says a U.S. prosecutor openly condemned Islam and is aiming to stretch his client's sentence, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody said that any such agreement did not appear in the written plea agreement, and that mere oral agreements were not binding on the prosecution. Both November 10 stories reported that on Nov. 9, Al-Arian's attorneys reported Kromberg's comments on the ... Islamization of America ... and challenged Kromberg's objectivity.
spacer On Nov. 13, Al-Arian's attorney appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Moody's ruling. On November 20, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Freedom mentioned another concern: that the prosecution sought to place Al-Arian under oath in order to obtain testimony that they would later impeach (by whatever methods) in order to pursue perjury charges. (This sort of game was practiced in the 1950s, when professional perjurers provided testimony contradicting that of suspected communists.)


The Last One

Two defendants remain at large: the British government refuses to extradite Bashir Nafi while the Syrian government refuses to extradite Ramadan Shallah. But the case of the last of the four defendants tried has now been resolved: on July 25, Hatem Fariz pleaded guilty to ... arranging a magazine interview with a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) member, sending tapes to Shallah before Shallah revealed himself as a senior member of the PIJ, and arranging for the purchase and distribution of bookbags and an ambulance to poor Palestinians, with the PIJ as the intermediary. Presumably all this involved some at least technical violations of the law, and Fariz was sentenced to 37 months in the federal pen. The July 26 St. Petersburg Times reported in Al-Arian associate gets prison: Hatem Fariz pleads guilty to providing nonviolent services to a terrorist group. His plea closes the 12-year terrorism investigation that Fariz told them, "Guess I'll lose weight and get some exercise in prison." He also recently pleaded guilty in Illinois to food stamp fraud.


Back at Coleman

On July 4, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian had been transferred to Coleman Federal Correction Institution - Medium (security), which the Board of Prisons lists as "a medium security facility housing male inmates" in central Florida; the Board of Prisons more generally describes medium security housing as follows: "Medium security FCIs have strengthened perimeters (often double fences with electronic detection systems), mostly cell-type housing, a wide variety of work and treatment programs, an even higher staff-to-inmate ratio than low security FCIs, and even greater internal controls." The Coalition said that Al-Arian was in a Special Housing Unit and is allowed only one visit a week and one phone call a month; this is apparently the same unit that worried Amnesty International when it raised the issue of Al-Arian's prison conditions in their statement on Amnesty International raises concern about prison conditions of Dr Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian was transferred from Atlanta, and the Coalition wrote that "While in prison in Atlanta, Dr. Al-Arian (and the warden) received a large number of letters, enough to get the attention of administrators."


Going Home

On Monday, May 22, early in the morning, Sameeh Hammoudeh was taken out of jail and put on a flight from Miami to Tel Aviv, from which he would be sent to Ramallah. The transfer took place two days before a deadline when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would have to justify Hammoudeh's continued incarceration to the court. The media, his family, and his attorney were not informed of the transfer, which was reported in the May 24 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian associate heads home: Sameeh Hammoudeh is out of jail, six months after a jury refused to link him to terrorism; in fact, the report had no confirmation that Hammoudeh had been sent anyplace. Nevertheless, family and attorney took the report at face value, as did the Times, which reminded readers that Hammoudeh had been acquitted on all counts -- that within an hour of deliberations -- quoting "several jurors" saying, "We didn't know why he was there." The Tribune waited until Thursday, May 25, to report that Hammoudeh had been deported ... on Tuesday, and confirming that Hammoudeh had indeed been deported: Al-Arian Co-Defendant Back In West Bank. To U.S. government contentions that the delay in the deportation was the fault of Israeli footd-dragging, Hammoudeh's attorney said that Israeli officials had stamped the necessary travel document on April 20; to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez evaded comment with: "The fact of the matter is these things take time, and every case is different ... We said all along we were working to carry out his removal orders mandated by law."


After the Curtain

In art, the play comes to an end, the curtain falls, and the players step come out to bow to the audience. Real life isn't like that, for real life always goes on. So even though it's over it's not clear that it's over and at any rate a lot of people have things to say about it. First up, movie buffs may recall that at the end of the Charlton Heston / Michael York production of the three and four Musketeers, when D'Artagnan [York] presents Richelieu [Heston] with with an indiscretely composed death warrant; then Richelieu concedes, one must watch what one writes. It appears, as of this month, that one must also watch what one says in open court. Judge Moody's comments at sentencing, for example.

  • On May 10, Al-Arian filed an appeal to the eleventh circuit court. His new attorney, long-time political associate and William Mitchell College of Law professor Peter Erlinder, said that the sentence was being appealed: see the May 11 Tampa Tribune report Al-Arian To Appeal Sentence. During sentencing, U.S. Judge James Moody had connected Al-Arian to the violence in Israel, while Al-Arian's attorneys had held that the plea agreement only mentioned acts separate from the violence. If Moody's comments could be construed as a rationale for the maximum sentence, and if the comments were out of order, the sentence could be subject to challenge.
  • Meanwhile, the May 10 - 16 Weekly Planet ran John Sugg's column on Al-Arian's final persecution, in which Sugg suggests that the Department of Justice knew in advance that Moody was going to give Al-Arian the maximum sentence, and suggesting that Moody and U.S. Attorney Paul Perez may have been pressured by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to get a sentence to Gonzalez's liking: "Perez already had been passed over for one federal judgeship -- and speculation among his own staff was that it stemmed from his office's clear complicity in attempting to frame an anti-corruption crusading state judge. So, my bet is that Gonzales came to town and lowered the hammer. 'Give me blood,' is what I think he told Perez and Moody. Or else."
  • Al-Arian was sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, which the Federal Bureau of Prisons describes as "a low security facility housing female inmates with an adjacent detention center that houses administrative security level male inmates." On May 11, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace issued a press release claiming that Al-Arian was placed in a "Special Housing Unit" because of receipt of a letter saying that Al-Arian posed a danger to other prisoners. Stating that he was in solitary confinement, the TBCJP wrote, "He is clearly being subjected to especially harsh conditions because of his political beliefs, ethnicity and religion. It is further evident that this vindictive treatment is a deliberate attempt to break him physically and psychologically."
  • Then Al-Arian was moved again, this time to the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the Board of Prisons website, the Atlanta penitentiary "houses high security male inmates and has a detention center for pre-trial and holdover inmates and a satellite camp for minimum security male inmates." According to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, Al-Arian was moved on June 7, and received no food or water for fifteen hours after his arrival. The Coalition also claimed that "he is held in solitary confinement and 23-hour a day lockdown. He is also facing mistreatment by guards who use racial slurs and insults against his religion."
Meanwhile, Hatem Fariz, a co-defendant, an American citizen from Puerto Rico who grew up in Illinois, accepted a plea bargain, as reported in the May 12 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian's co-defendant to accept deal for prison: The Spring Hill resident, who is a U.S. citizen, may not have to spend as much time in prison as Sami Al-Arian. As of May 15, the plea bargain was not posted, and the press report of it was strange: Fariz admits raising money for a charity in the West Bank, which used the money for food and school and medical supplies. According to the report, what upset the government is that this same charity received contributions from the PIJ, and that Fariz had electronic copies of PIJ appeals for donations to this charity. The Times did not explain what crime Fariz is confessing to, if any.


Eighteen months

On May 1, Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison, and with credit for the 39 months he has already been arrested, he will be in prison for 18 months, and then deported. See AP's May 1 report Florida professor sentenced in terrorism case.

  • It is customary for the defendant to make a statement before sentencing, and Al-Arian chose to make a short and magnanimous speech. After thanking his attorneys and especially the jury and even some judges ("It's also my belief that an impartial and conscientious jury, as well as principled judicial rulings that uphold the values of the Constitution, are the real vehicles that win the hearts and minds of people across the globe, especially in the Arab and Muslim world."), he said that he "I harbor no bitterness or resentment" and in fact was grateful to the opportunities America had provided him and his family. He concluded by thanking his family and God for their support. The St. Petersburg Times posted Sami Al-Arian's court statement.
  • U.S. District Judge James Moody was having none of it. He began with, "Dr. Al-Arian, as usual, you speak very eloquently. I find it interesting that here in public in front of everyone you praised this country, the same country that in private you referred to as 'the great Satan' ...'' He then condemned Al-Arian for being "a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad," saying that, "When Iran ... became upset because the PIJ could not account for how it was spending its money ..." the PIJ Board decided to reform and Al-Arian moved to stop the reform by offering "to rewrite the bylaws of the organization." Moody went on: "... when it came to blowing up women and children on buses, did you leap into action then? ... No. You lifted not one finger, made not one phone call." Twice calling Al-Arian "a master manipulator," Moody sentenced Al-Arian to 57 months in prison -- the maximum allowed under the plea agreement -- less the 39 months already spent in jail (mostly in solitary confinement). The St. Petersburg Times posted Moody's remarks: Judge Moody: You are a master manipulator U.S. District Judge S. Moody made the following statement to Sami Al-Arian during Monday's sentencing. Incidentally, no one actually seems to remember Al-Arian referring to America as "the great Satan," and Moody may been mistakingly referring to such an epithet in something called "The Internal By-laws of Islamic Jihad in Palestine," which probably was written by someone else; see the May 4 St. Petersburg Times report Did judge put words in Al-Arian's mouth? Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys recall the former USF professor calling the U.S. "the great Satan.".
There were immediate reactions all around.
  • As of May 2, the Free Al-Arian Site had not posted it, but the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace sent out a message to subscribers and supporters from Al-Arian, largely a variation on his statement to the Court, in which he wrote that "As a stateless Palestinian, I'll continue the struggle for justice, human rights, and self-determination on behalf of the oppressed Palestinian people, whether under occupation or in exile," and also "I also believe that the tools we must employ in this difficult struggle must be legitimate and just," and thus "I'll continue to call and work for the peaceful engagement and dialogue between civilizations, in particular between Muslim and Western intellectuals and academics. Those who advocate the clash between Islamic and Western cultures present a grave danger to this world and must be confronted in the intellectual and public spheres through forums and programs that deepen mutual understanding and cooperation." Al-Arian's messages were poseted by the Tampa Tribune.
  • The May 2 St. Petersburg Times published quotes ( What They Said) from several major players, including USF Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dick Beard ("He's a radical Islamic, in my view, a terrorist. I'm sure he will spin his evil web and continue to do it in the Middle East or wherever he ends up"), Al-Arian's son Abdullah (Moody "sounded like a racist judge at a civil rights trial in the 1950s"), Steve Emerson ("The judge got it right. Al-Arian's masterful deception involved fooling this country"), and Al-Arian's attorney ("The jury knew this was a political prosecution").
  • Grumps about the prosecution continued. While U.S. Attorney Paul Perez said that he had no "regrets" about the prosecution and that the Justice Department had succeeded in its "objective" of exposing "Mr. Al-Arian and other members of the PIJ and bring them to justice for the crimes they committed," George Washington University J.B. and Maurice Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law Jonathan Turley said, "While prosecutors may have been personally gratified by [the sentence, its relative lightness] only tended to highlight the fact that this was not a very successful prosecution," adding, "This case had legal flaws. There's a great deal of incriminating material in the record, but the case fell significantly short of supporting the government claims"; see the May 2 Tampa Tribune report Judge Rebukes, Sentences Al-Arian.
Predictably,the media also reacted.
  • The Tampa Tribune, which had followed the case closely for eleven years, editorialized on May 2 that Judge Gets To The Heart Of Al-Arian Case. Rejecting Al-Arian's statement that he "harbored no bitterness or resentment", the Tribune wrote that "It is perhaps the ultimate display of Al-Arian's arrogance to make himself a victim on the day he is being sentenced as a criminal," adding that "he never acknowledges or apologizes for the crime of providing support to members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization responsible for hundreds of deaths and maimings in Israel," and concluding "Al-Arian has yet to understand that no one but his most myopic supporters buys the 'peaceful professor' act anymore."
  • St. Petersburg Times columnist Susan Taylor Martin wrote on May 2 that In Middle East, Al-Arian resolution doesn't resonate -- or rather, she didn't, for comparing the headline to the story reminds readers that not even columnists (much less reporters) write their own headlines. Martin said that the Israel press largely ignored Al-Arian, even though the PIJ is behind almost all of the recent anti-Israeli violence: she quotes Haaretz correspondent Shmuel Rosner saying, "We don't find him significant" and adding, "Maybe he gave some money to somebody connected to Islamic Jihad. So what? There are many people supporting Islamic Jihad ... The story of Islamic Jihad is the support they get from the government in Damascus Syria, not from some American professor." She also quoted Jerusalem Post news editor Amir Mizroch saying that he and his colleagues "played up the story, just not at the moment, what with all the elections, coalitions, Iran and Hamas news going on." But she also said that the Arabs were following the case closely, quoting from an Arab News column in Saudi Arabia: "too many innocent people who have spoken out against Israel are either in jail or being charged unfairly. ... While we focus on the wrong front, the real terrorists, like Osama bin Laden, remain at large, plotting, planning and waiting for the moment to strike again."
Eighteen months from now is November, 2007.


Plea Bargain

On April 17, on the recommendations of U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III and Defense Counsel Linda Moreno, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. accepted a guilty plea from Sami al-Arian in Count Four of the superseding indictment (warning: 158-page PDF file). In the Plea Agreement, the parties agreed that:

  • Al-Arian will plead GUILTY to "Conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
  • That his actions were part of a "common and unlawful plan," and that Al-Arian, "knowing the unlawful purpose of the plan, wilfully joined in it."
  • That at least one of the several hundred "overt acts" (the Plea Bargain doesn't say which one -- as if it mattered) was committed by "one of the conspirators" (the Plea Bargain doesn't say which one ...).
  • The government agrees to dismiss the remaining charges, and not file any more.
  • The government agrees to a sentence between 46 and 57 months. It does not say whether his jail time (nearly 38 months) will count as time served.
  • Al-Arian agrees to cooperate with deportation proceedings. It does not require that the government institute said proceedings.
  • The primary monetary liability is a fine of up to a quarter million dollars.
  • The Plea Bargain states that in agreeing to the agreement, Al-Arian is "... pleading guilty freely and voluntarily without any discussions between the attorney for the government and the defendant and defendant's attorney and without promise of benefits of any kind (other than the concessions contained herein) ..."
  • In addition, in signing the agreement, Al-Arian agrees that "Defendant is pleading guilty because defendant is in fact guilty. Defendant certifies that defendant does hereby admit that the facts set forth below are true, and were this case to go to trial would be able to prove those specific facts and others beyond any reasonable doubt." Then the Plea Bargain enumerates the "facts" that form the content of the agreed-upon confession, which include:
    • That Al-Arian was associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad over ten years ago, and so was Mazen al-Najjar, Bashir Nafi, and Ramadan Shallah. Incidentally, while Shallah was evidently associated with the PIJ (he now leads the organization), neither al-Najjar nor Nafi have made any such admissions; the Plea Agreement does not contain any commitment by Al-Arian to serve as a witness against these three, who are also named in the indictment and are thus subject to trial (Shallah is in Syria and Nafi in Great Britain, and the Syrian and British governments have declined to send them to the USA).
    • Al-Arian continued to perform services for the PIJ after President Clinton banned it in 1995 (thus making such services illegal). These services including helping unnamed PIJ associates with immigration and legal issues. They also included some money, although the agreement was vague about where it was going.
    • Al-Arian was lying when he told the media in 1995 that he had not known who Ramadan Shallah was.
As is typical of such agreements, there was no obligation imposed on the court.
spacer Of course, the problem with a plea agreements is that whatever the agreement itself may say, there are inescapable elements of coercion to it. No such agreement should be taken at face value, and certainly this one was not, at least not in toto by everyone. But observers and participants seemed to think that this was the end of the show.
  • The office of U.S. Attorney Paul Perez issued a press release on behalf of the Department of Justice. The release quoted Perez saying, "Because of the painstaking work of the prosecutors and agents who pursued this case, Al-Arian has now confessed to helping terrorists do their work from his base here in the United States - a base he is no longer able to maintain."
  • Stephen Flatow, whose daughter's death figured in Al-Arian's trial, said, "I think it's better than the prospect of going back to retrial and the chance that one year later another jury will have as hard a time," he said. "It was not the home run that the conviction on all those charges would have entailed. But I think it has taken him out of business."
  • On April 18, the USF Oracle reported that Judge makes it official: Three days after it was initially reported that Sami Al-Arian agreed to a plea agreement that would result in his deportation, a federal judge approves the deal. Like other reports, the Oracle's noted that "The plea agreement ... acknowledges Al-Arian did not commit violent crimes and that there are 'no victims direct or indirect' due to his involvement with the PIJ. But the agreement also said Al-Arian was aware that the PIJ achieved its objectives via acts of violence."
  • The St. Petersburg Times decided it was over. On April 18, the Times reported that Al-Arian's plea ends an ordeal: He agreed to a single count of conspiracy to end his family's turmoil, his attorney says, and quoted his attorney, Linda Moreno, saying, "In the agreement, he did not plead guilty to any crime of violence, and by pleading he gave his family closure in this ordeal." And on April 19, the St. Petersburg Times took at least the confession at face value, noting in its editorial The real Al-Arian: In the plea deal signed by Sami Al-Arian, the former USF professor is revealed as a moral and academic fraud who helped jihadists and then lied about it, that "He admits to cryptic phone calls, wary of wiretapping, in which he referred to bank deposits as 'shirts' or 'magazines'"; evidently referring to Facts (o) and (p) in the Plea Agreement that Al-Arian signed. This straightforward view of the situation was belied by an exchange described in the April 25 Times report Al-Arian plea deal overcame discord: Disagreements appear to have triggered a defense lawyer's request to withdraw from the case in December, which concludes with the following:
    U.S. Magistrate Thomas B. McCoun: ...if you're satisfied you're guilty or you believe it's in your best interest to plead guilty...let me know that.
    Al-Arian: I believe it's in my best interest to enter a plea.
  • The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, which is deeply involved with the Al-Arians, issued a release saying, "The decision to accept the product of these negotiations was made by the Al-Arian family as a whole. Their concern first and foremost was to end Dr. Al-Arian's suffering. Even after he spent two years in solitary confinement under harsh conditions in a federal penitentiary while awaiting trial, and following his acquittal on the most serious charges, Dr. Al-Arian's conditions of confinement have remained deplorable. His release will also reunite him with his youngest children, who have been traumatized by their father's absence in the past three years." Al-Arian's wife Nahla is quoted saying, "To the Friends of Human Rights and all of our supporters in Tampa Bay, across the country, and around the world, we thank you for standing with us in this struggle. We pray that the success of our case is a sign of brighter days ahead for all those struggling against political persecution, in America and abroad," and the release concluded with a plea for the Al-Arian family's privacy.
  • The Tampa Tribune felt vindicated, beginning its April 18 report Al-Arian Admits His Role In Jihad with the lead paragraph, "When Sami Al-Arian denied raising funds for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he now says he was lying." But the Tribune grumpily editorialized that Sending Al-Arian Overseas Hardly Makes America And Allies Safer, grumbling that "the government's anemic result in the first test of the Patriot Act simply transfers the problem to another country. Somehow, we doubt this is what President Bush meant when he talked about fighting the terrorists overseas so that we don't have to fight them here." And on April 19, the Tribune's cartoonist speculated on where Al-Arian would wind up (see the April 19 cartoon on A Chilly Welcome).
One thing that was not in the plea agreement, and which would have enormous consequences (and the alert reader can tell that this paragraph was added to this entry later) was an apparent oral agreement -- of sorts -- that Al-Arian would not be asked to cooperated with other judicial proceedings. Exactly what this agreement was is unclear, which raises a point.
  • The entire docket was going on-line -- except for the transcripts of proceedings in court. An aide to one of Al-Arian's attorneys told me that they do receive electronic copies of transcripts, so they do exist. And a report for the St. Petersburg Times told me that the Times is paying for copies of the transcripts, but she did not say if the copies the Times was paying for were hardcopy or electronic (I refuse to believe that the Times would shell out cash for hardcopy transcripts if they could get searchable electronic copies for free). A receptionist for the Court informed me that I could purchase hardcopy transcripts if I came to the court in person to pay the page fees and pick up the transcripts, and no, she said that electronic copies were not available. The limits on public access to this voluminous documentation is an issue once their contents are at issue, and the oral plea agreement apparently brings the contents of these transcripts an issue.
As of March 26, 2008, I have not seen a major media description of the government's stance on what was in the oral component of the plea agreement, but in its March 25, 2008 press release, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Peace and Justice reported that on November 18, 2006, Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Zitek told the Court that, "Al-Arian says, 'I don't want to cooperate.' So we say, 'We won't put a cooperation provision in there.'" Notice the date: the guilty plea was accepted by the Court on April 17, Al-Arian was sentenced and sent to prison, and then called before a grand jury at the U.S. Court of the Eastern District of Virginia on Oct. 19 (after a build-up that included Al-Arian's assertions that he would not cooperate). On Friday, November 10, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Judge Moody had ruled that week (apparently November 9: see the Docket Entry 1666) that because the oral agreement was not "memorialized" that it would not be enforced. By Monday, November 13, Al-Arian was appealing. According to the Docket Page, there was no hearing on the case on November 18. The date given by TBCJP may be a typo, which raises an awkward question about the reliability of the TBJCP's report. On the other hand, the reader who read the docket entry may notice that the St. Petersburg Times' interpretation of the ruling is ... incomplete (and this webmaster has also made numerous errors), so lacking a transcript (!), it is not clear what was said when.
spacer Sentencing is scheduled for May 1.


End in Sight?

Plea bargains are at best a necessary evil.
spacer Defended as a device for guilty defendents to spare the state the expenses of a trial, plea bargains are all too often used as a mechanism for two legal parties to avoid entering a trial with problematic cases -- thus avoiding the risk of an unpredictable verdict -- and never mind the truth. In essence, the prosecution and defense agree on a count or counts for the defendent to confess to, and then the defendent in open court confesses to the count(s) and also presents details of the acts, said details serving to buttress the defense's position that the defendent is contrite and the prosecution's position that the confession is genuine. Most cases are resolved by plea bargains: it is a lot cheaper than a trial, and the state could never afford full trials for even a majority of the defendents. But the resulting resolutions are believed only by delusional judges; indeed, one of the major controversies in DNA testing is whether or not defendents who have plea bargained their cases (complete with confessions) may now employ DNA testing to challenge their convictions.
spacer Nevertheless, 1,148 days after Al-Arian's arrest, the Associated Press reported in Ex-Professor in Terror Case to Be Deported that Al-Arian had agreed to plea guilty to a "lesser charge" and be deported. By the next day, April 15, the St. Petersburg Times was reporting that Plea may let U.S. deport Al-Arian: The secret deal would have the former USF professor admit guilt on a conspiracy charge, while the Tampa Tribune was reporting that Al-Arian To Be Deported. The situation was not very clear, but the Times reported that Al-Arian would plead guilty to a "watered-down version of Count No. 4" of the indictment (warning: 158-page PDF file): Conspiracy to Make and Receive Contributions of Funds, Goods or Services to or for the Benefit of Specially Designated Terrorists. (This count said that President Clinton's Executive Order number 12947 prohibited various types of support for "designated" terrorists and terrorist organizations; that on January 15, 1995, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was designated a terrorist organization by the Department of Treasury, and that on November 27, 1995, Ramadan Shallah was designated a terrorist by the Department of Treasury; that subsequent to those dates, Al-Arian and co-defendents had provided forbidden support to the PIJ and Shallah and others.)
spacer The Times reported that "The crux of the agreement, according to lawyers familiar with the case, is that Al-Arian helped a PIJ associate, his brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar"; Al-Najjar was never tried on the charges filed against him, he was merely summarily deported to a nation still unnamed and the federal government has recently been attempting to get him back in order to try him. The Times also reported that Al-Arian's wife Nahla was unhappy about the reports of the agreement, saying, "This leak must have come from the Department of Justice in Washington because we and everyone we know have respected the order to keep quiet." Meanwhile, Council on American Islamic Relations Tampa spokesman Ahmed Bedier told the Tribune that -- in the Tribune's words -- "Al-Arian did not agree to admit to any charges associated with terrorism," and quoting Bedier saying, "He stayed true to his convictions - he stayed true he wasn't going to plead to those issues." Al-Arian's former attorney Bill Moffitt explained the reason why Al-Arian would plead guilty: "The government has spent 10 years trying to convict [Al-Arian] ... I have no reason to believe they were not going to try Sami again. Why take the risk? It's a guy with five children. ... If he wins again, don't you think these fools will try him again? It was time for it to be over." (Compare with general comments on plea bargains above.) Finally, Al-Arian's former attorney Bill Moffitt told the Times, "We hope ... it will be over soon and Sami can go home"; but on a perhaps not unrelated case, Al-Arian's co-defendent Sameeh Hammoudeh -- who was acquitted on all charges -- made a similar bargain on a tax case and then, despite the federal government's commitment to return Hammoudeh to Palestine, he remains a prisoner at the pleasure of the Department of Justice while the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency spins rationales for his continuing incarceration.


The Great Writ of Liberty

The words "habeas corpus ad subjiciendum" means "you have the body," and is the title of a writ directed at a party that is detaining a person. Sir William Blackstone called it the great and efficacious writ in all manner of illegal confinement, and can be used not only to win the liberty of a prisoner, but also as a "collateral attack" to test the legality of an imprisonment. Thus it is not surprising that once the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency reached the 90-day limit on detaining Sameeh Hammoudeh, that Hammoudeh's lawyer would file for a writ of habeas corpus (see the March 9 St. Petersburg Times report Lawyer seeks order to free Hammoudeh: The attorney is seeking a writ of habeas corpus to force the government to explain why his client is still detained.) The current explanation that the ICE giving is that Israel will not let the U.S. deport Hammoudeh to Palestine, an assertion that Israel denies; this is the third explanation, the previous two being that ICE disagreed with the jury's verdict, and that the ICE had mucked up the paperwork.
spacer Then on March 19, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the indictment of Sameeh Hammoudeh may have mislead the grand jury. Asking Was indictment misleading? When the government charged Sameeh Hammoudeh with terrorism-related activities, it used wiretap transcripts that may have been unfairly summarized, the Times gave three examples of strange summaries of conversations reported in the indictment. (The story did not mention that the indictment was very hastily drawn and, according to previous reports, riddled with translation errors.) Federal prosecutors declined comment, but a lawyer from a previous celebrated case that blew up over mangled wiretap transcripts -- the Aisenberg trial -- said, "... when it happens rarely, that's too often. Whether reckless or deliberate, it's wrong." Then, perhaps unsurprisingly, the March 20 deadline for the Department of Justice to release or justify the continued incarceration of Hammoudeh came and went, with the blessing of U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore; see the March 21 St. Petersburg Times story Deadline in Hammoudeh case extended: Sameeh Hammoudeh was acquitted but is still in jail. Then on March 21, ICE decided We don't need reason to hold you, Hammoudeh told: Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyers argue they can hold someone six months without justifying it. It seems that in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Zadvydas v. Davis et al, in which J. Beyer, joined by Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, and Ginsburg, held that "... the federal courts [have the] authority to determine whether post-removal-period detention is pursuant to statutory authority ... the court must ask whether the detention exceeds a period reasonably necessary to secure removal. It should measure reasonableness primarily in terms of the statute's purpose of assuring the alien's presence at the moment of removal. Thus, if removal is not reasonably foreseeable, the court should hold continued detention unreasonable and no longer authorized. ... It is unlikely that Congress believed that all reasonably foreseeable removals could be accomplished in 90 days, but there is reason to believe that it doubted the constitutionality of more than six months' detention. Thus, for the sake of uniform administration in the federal courts, six months is the appropriate period." Apparently the 11th Circuit reads this to mean that the ICE may detain a deportee for up to six months at its own pleasure, and the Department of Justice now contends that Hammoudeh may not move for release until June, six months after his acquittal.
spacer But on March 22, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore ruled that "The Fifth Amendment is not triggered by the passage of time," as reported in the March 23 St. Petersburg Times report Judge: Hammoudeh can sue ICE now: The federal judge says "One day of illegal detention is a violation of the Constitution.". This did not mean that Hammoudeh would be released, but only that he can now petition the court to be released; further, the judge gave the ICE until May 25 to justify Hammoudeh's continued incarceration. Incidentally, the printed version of the report contained a paragraph excised from the on-line version: in the printed version ("There is no time delay for rights, judge rules"), Whittemore asked about the March 1 St. Petersburg Times report that Israel had no objection to Hammoudeh returning to Palestine -- a news story reportedly entered into evidence by the government, and contradicting ICE's second rationale for Hammoudeh's continuing incarceration -- government attorney Warren Zimmerman derided the report as "hearsay upon hearsay" (which the careful reader will notice is not exactly a denial). It is not unusual for printed and on-line versions of news stories to differ.


Approaching a Decision?

Sameeh Hammoudeh and Sami Al-Arian were still in jail on February 20, largely at the pleasure of the Department of Justice and the enduring patience of the courts, when the USF Oracle ran an interview with him: see Al-Arian reflects on past three years: In only his second interview since being arrested exactly three years ago on terrorism-related charges, former USF professor Sami Al-Arian discusses his trial, the conditions of his incarceration and the suffering his family has endured. Then on Feb. 22, the St. Petersburg Times ran a very strange report, Judge: Hammoudeh should be set free: Immigration officials say he can't be released and deported until a bureaucratic process has been completed, in which Federal Prosecutor Alexis Collins states, in effect, that Hammoudeh is in jail because the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had mucked up the paperwork -- and that Judge Moody had said that while Hammoudeh should be freed, the ICE was likely to defy or ignore a court order to free him.
spacer Hammoudeh's predicament became stranger when federal prosecutors claimed that Israel was obstructing Hammoudeh's return: spokesman Steve Cole is quoted saying, "Diplomatic negotiations with the Israelis are ongoing, very sensitive negotiations, which we hope to resolve as soon as possible." But the March 1, 2006, St. Petersburg Times report Israel denies role in stalled release: Prosecutors say Israel has a problem with Sameeh Hammoudeh. But Israeli officials say he's an American issue, also quoted Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad saying, "He has a Palestinian passport in good standing. He's clear as far as we're concerned," and consulate spokesman Ariel Roman said, "The government of Israel is not involved in why Hammoudeh is not being sent. It is an internal affair of the American government, not Israel." There has been some discussion of (real or imaginary) Israeli involvement in this case, but this appears to be the first allegation of this sort coming from the federal government.
spacer Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. postponed Al-Arian's (re-)trial until August; of course, the government has not announced whether it intends to (re-)try Al-Arian, but presumably he's being kept in jail for something -- see the March 3 St. Petersburg Times report Al-Arian retrial pushed back till at least August. And on March 3, U.S. Magistrate Thomas B. McCoun finally let Al-Arian's attorneys, William Moffitt and Linda Moreno, off the case, as reported in the March 4 Tampa Tribune story Al-Arian's Lawyers Bow Out Of Case; while no reasons for their departure was announced -- and indeed the Tribune reported that the attorneys declined to say -- Moffitt developed serious health problems during the first trial and Moreno's expertise lies elsewhere.


You were saying???

While the government dithered, a growing number of observers observed that Al-Arian was still detained -- with no pending charges, apparently at His Honor's Pleasure, to use a possibly appropriate Medieval phrasing of the situation. Al-Arian is not exactly the only person detained at the pleasure of the American government at the moment, but his legally anomalous situation creates difficulties for other parties. One of those parties is the administration of the University of South Florida.
spacer On January 26, Associate General Secretary Jordan Kurland of the American Association of University Professors -- which had "condemned" USF in 2003 -- sent a letter to USF President Genshaft "to remind her of the commitment she made concerning the AAUP and grievances for former professor Sami Al-Arian" according to a Feb. 9 report by the USF Oracle, Group reminds Genshaft of her Al-Arian statements. The letter does not appear to be mentioned on-line (indeed, the AAUP does not appear to be tracking the Al-Arian case at their website, although they do routinely track their pending censure cases). Anyway, as USF/UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford notes, Al-Arian "has an active appeal that has not been processed," and that "The explanation at the time was that it couldnít be processed until the court decisions were in." The inconsistency reportedly noted in Kurland's letter is that between the USF Administration response to the AAUP Committee A report (the response is towards the bottom) that "Once a jury returns a verdict, Dr. Al-Arian may be in a position to then participate in our process, at which time one can better assess dismissing him in light of the evidence of his activities," and the more recent press statement that "USF ended Sami Al-Arianís employment nearly three years ago, and we do not expect anything to change that."


Approaching a Decision

Then on Friday, January 6, 2006, Judge Moody asked prosecutor Terry Zitek what the government planned to do, and Zitek replied, "I think it would be correct to assume we're going to continue" (see the Jan. 7 St. Petersburg Times story Case will go on, prosecutor says: Prosecutor Terry Zitek says the government is trying to determine which counts it wants to retry). Apparently the problem is that most of the unresolved charges are ancillary to charges on which Al-Arian was acquitted. The Jan. 7 Tampa Tribune quoted Al-Arian's attorney saying that he hoped Al-Arian would be released soon, but that he hadn't made the motion for Al-Arian's release because, "We don't want Dr. Al-Arian whisked away to an immigration facility where we would have difficulty communicating with him"; see Al-Arian Defense Team Makes Pitch To Settle Case; the Tribune also reported that a new trial was unlikely before August.
spacer Then on January 13, the U.S. Department of Justice opposed Al-Arian's motion for acquittal on the remaining charges in its Consolidated Response in Opposition to ... Renewed Motions for ... Acquittal. The Jan. 14 St. Petersburg Times interpreted this as a "peek" at new prosecutorial strategy, as reported in Papers preview tactics for al-Arian retrial: Prosecutors have yet to decide which hung charges to pursue in a new trial of the former USF professor. Meanwhile, Sameeh Hammoudeh, who was acquitted on all charges, remains in prison. He had agreed to be deported in a deal on tax evasion, and the deal apparently included a stipulation that he would be on probation until the deportation. But as the January 19 St. Petersburg Times reported in Al-Arian associate remains confined: Immigration officials are still holding Sameeh Hammoudeh because he could have terrorism ties and as the January 19 Tampa Tribune reported in Hammoudeh Stuck In Limbo, Immigration & Customs Enforcement is keeping him locked up because they disagree with the jury's verdict, although the spokesperson admitted that she didn't understand her own agency's position. U.S Immigration Judge Gail Padgett has decided that she does not have jurisdiction to order Hammoudeh's release, and thought that the authority might lie with an immigration officer, David Wing, who claimed that he did not have the discretion to act. Hammoudeh's lawyer says he will next go to U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr., who had initially ordered Hammoudeh's release, although in keeping with the legal philosophy of the Bush administration, the Justice Department and Immigration Customs Enforcement said that releasing Hammoudeh is an issue for officials, not judges, to decide. But when Hammoudeh's difficulties hit the press, something interesting happened. According to the Jan. 21 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian associate may be freed: Instead of being deported, Sameeh Hammoudeh will leave the country voluntarily, immigration officials say, Ms. Hammoudeh got a call from an Immigration official who expressed concerns about "the media attention" and asked if her husband would be willing to just get an airplane ticket and leave. Hammoudeh says yes, and his lawyers were hopeful that Hammoudeh wwould be heading for Jordan the next week.
spacer But by the end of that next week, Hammoudeh was still locked up -- and Al-Arian's lawyers (one of whom has health problems, and the other with a different expertise) were asking to be removed from the case; see the Jan. 28 St. Petersburg Times report Al-Arian lawyers, judge have a closed discussion: The judge says he will reveal why the lawyers want to be taken off the case if Al-Arian is retried on some counts. Still the U.S. government could not, or would not deport Hammoudeh, leading to recurrent chain-jerking. As of Feb. 8, the government had told Hammoudeh's family four times that deportation was imminent, only to change its mind; the fourth time was on Tuesday, February 7, as reported in the Feb. 8 St. Petersburg times story Again, forced apart: They had packed, said goodbye to friends and a pet turtle. But at the last moment, Sameeh Hammoudeh is not allowed to join his family's trip to the Middle East. The fourth time, the government jerked the chain as the family was at the gate, leaving for Ramallah, in Palestine; according to the article, the rest of the family had to take the flight. Tampa's Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Pam McCullough referred reporters to Miami's spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez, who said, "We can only say that he remains in ICE custody. We will not say why, or say when he is leaving for safety and security reasons." On Feb. 14, the St. Petersburg Times returned to the subject with Eager to be deported, Hammoudeh still waits: Despite his acquittal on terrorism-related charges, officials keeping backing off promises to let him leave. Hammoudeh's lawyers, perhaps used to dealing with prosecutors who have to stick to the bargains that they make, accepted four times assurances by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that Hammoudeh would be deported; and yet Hammoudeh is still in jail. A prosecutor who did this would be in deep trouble with the judge, but ICE is different; indeed, Miami immigration lawyer said that this is "Typical ICE behavior," while ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez said, apparently without embarrassment, that Hammoudeh was being held under "prosecutorial discretion" as a perceived threat (the law she cited gives ICE up to ninety days of discretion). Hammoudeh's attorney described all this as a "raw abuse of power."
spacer Meanwhile, on Feb. 15, the Federal Court announced that Al-Arian's next trial -- if any -- would be in April, as reported by AP in Possible second al-Arian trial would begin in April.


Retrospectives while Waiting

While observers waited for the Justice Department to make its next move, the media continued to run retrospectives. On Dec. 11, the Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Trial Was Big News In Middle East, quoting Al-Jazeera correspondent Mohammed Alami saying, "People were very interested to know what would happen to a university professor who was speaking his mind"; reporter Chris Echegaray said that "As for Middle Eastern media coverage in general, the trial was reduced to Palestinians against Jews." And on Dec. 12, Time magazine commented on When Terror Charges Just Won't Stick: A jury vindicates a fiery pro-Palestinian professor. Did the feds just waste their time?, contending that "the trial's revelations about his stealth involvement with Islamic Jihad ... have all but wrecked his standing as a spokesman for mainstream Palestinian causes."
spacer As of Tuesday, December 13, the number of hits on google for "al-arian" has spiked up to "about 629,000"; as usual, this site is third, after's page and In comparison, "Judy Genshaft" has "about 25,000", "John Sugg" has "about 40,000", "Steve Emerson" has "about 53,300", "Anne Coulter" has "about 106,000", "Patty Hearst" has "about 287,000", Calvin Coolidge has "about 730,000", "Friedrich Engels" has "about 962,000", "David Horowitz" has "about 1,380,000", "Bill O'Reilly" has "about 2,500,000", and "United Faculty of Florida" has "about 20,400". And on Wednesday, December 14, the New York Sun quoted this site's webmaster in its report Calls Begin for Sami Al-Arian To Regain The Job He Held at South Florida U., which quoted me saying, "The rationale [for dismissal] kept changing, and it was not entirely clear what he was being dismissed for ... When someone is being dismissed by a process that seems to be sort of outside the contract or indifferent to the contract, then we start getting worried." On Dec. 15, commented in When the Best Defense Is No Defense that "Acquittal in terrorism trial described as 'colossal embarrassment' for Bush administration's Justice Department." Also on Dec. 15, the Weekly Planet got several grumps into its Dec. 15 issue, most notably a set of pointed open memos John Sugg sent as a sort of season's greating to Al-Arian, U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, Tampa Tribune reporter Michael Fechter, and freelance writer Steve Emerson (see Take a Memo: Preach Peace, Sami; Get Truthful, Tribune and Prosecutors; Mr. O'Reilly did not even get honorable mention.


Acquittals & Deadlocks

Apparently there had been a lot of tension in the jury room after all, for on Tuesday, December 7, with the jury still deadlocked on many counts, Judge Moody ended the trial, unsealed the available verdicts, and declared mistrial on the rest. All the verdicts the jury had agreed on were acquittals, and the votes on the unresolved counts had mostly eight or nine jurors in favor of acquittal.

  • The jury found Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Zayed Ballut not guilty on all counts. Hammoudeh's family has agreed to leave for Ramallah, but Ballut's fate (he had originally sought immunity for testifying to a grand jury, but was refused) is less clear.
  • The jury deadlocked on some counts against Al-Arian and Hatem Naji Fariz, the latter of whom was born in Puerto Rico, which could complicate further proceedings against him.
The other four defendents, including Irish citizen Bashir Nafi, whom the British government has refused to extradite (he lives in London), and PIJ leader Ramadan Shallah are still at large.
spacer Their was a certain sense of Not Proven to the end of the trial.
  • During the trial, some of Al-Arian's associates and acquaintances had been unpleasantly surprised by his apparent violation of Marquess of Queensbury rules for how activists are supposed to behave, in particular his alleged dalliances with the PIJ and his apparent lack of forthrightness about them.
  • Initial reports on the jury deliberations were that the discussions had turned a bit weird towards the end, with a large majority believing that the government had failed to prove much of anything, and a minority insisting for reasons they were unable to articulate that Al-Arian must be guilty.
While many opinions had been changed during the trial, the reaction to the trial suggested that not many minds had been changed, even if some found the results startling. (See the Dec. 7 Tampa Tribune story Reactions Run The Gamut and the Dec. 7 St. Petersburg Times story What they're saying.)
  • The Dec. 7 Tampa Tribune reported that "Tears of joy at the defense table met with blank expressions of shock among prosecutors" ( No Guilty Verdicts In Al-Arian Trial). The Dec. 7 St. Petersburg Times reported that Nahla Al-Arian's response was "God bless America." U.S. Attorney Paul Perez said, "As federal prosecutors, our job is to see that justice is done. We don't keep score on winners or losers. ... The jury spoke, and we're going to live with it. This isn't going to affect the morale of my office or my prosecutors one bit," and the Department of Justice soon said that, "While we respect the jury's verdict, we stand by the evidence we presented in court against Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendants." Al-Arian's attorney Linda Moreno said, "The Constitution is still alive in the United States of America. ... We believe the jury was under tremendous pressure to convict, which makes this all the more courageous."
  • Observers were more severe. Civil Liberties Union Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said, "I think it's an indication that representatives of our federal government have squandered a lot of their credibility." Nicholas Matassini, one of Al-Arian's past attorneys, said, "When I first saw the indictment of Al-Arian, I called it a work of fiction. The jury's verdict bears that out." Bob McKee, another of his attorneys, said, "They had 10 years to investigate this guy, thousands of hours of wiretaps. They had the CIA, the FBI and Israeli intelligence gathering evidence. After all that, they couldn't get 12 people to agree on one count guilty." David Cole, who had represented Al-Arian's brother-in-law, said, ""They never connected Sami Al-Arian to a single illegal act, here or abroad. ... When you fight the war on terror, you need to focus on terrorists, not on people whose political associations you find distasteful."
  • There was a sense that the prosecution had somehow blown it or never had it or something: one juror said, "An awful lot trees went into this evidence. But for what purpose, I don't know," and another that, "The evidence wasn't there to put a guilty verdict on it." Jurors reported being heavily influenced by the following passage in the jury instructions: "Our law does not criminalize beliefs or mere membership in an organization. A person who is in sympathy with the legitimate aim of an organization but does not intend to accomplish that aim by a resort to illegal activity is not punished for adherence to lawful purposes of speech." (See the Dec. 7 St. Petersburg Times story, 8 times, Al-Arian hears 'Not guilty'.)
  • Al-Arian has critics, and PRIMER founder Norman Gross is one of them: "We're going to be collaborating in our own demise." Stephen Flatow, father of Alisa, a victim of one of the PIJ's bombs, said, "The jury did the best they could do. But the acquittal sets back this type of prosecution. ..." Bill O'Reilly, who had played a major role in starting all this, asked, "Doesn't the government run the risk ... of making this guy into a martyr now?" And the Tampa Tribune, editorialized in its Dec. 7 column The Country He Condemned May Be Ready To Free Al-Arian that "It's unclear why the jury ruled as it did," the Tribune did conclude that "Ultimately, prosecutors could not connect the dots." Meanwhile, on Dec. 8, CNN talked to experts who speculated that the problem lay in weaknesses of the U.S. PATRIOT Act, although former federal prosecutor Stephen C. King said, "The jury simply didn't see the evidence presented at trial as sufficient. That has nothing to do with the investigative tools that were used to prepare the case and secure an indictment"; see Expert: Patriot Act no 'magic bullet': Fired professor's acquittal at terror trial seen as setback. And on Dec. 9, the Tampa Tribune reported that many experts thought that the Trial Set A 'Terrible Precedent' in that, as Monterey Institute for International Studies Assistant Professor Jeffrey Bale put it, "When you've got a situation where you've got a high-ranking support organization in the United States and you can't even prosecute that effectively, it's a terrible precedent." Interestingly, most of the experts cited seemed to be taking Al-Arian's guilt for granted, and there was little concern about the damage to Justice Department credibility should it be seen as persecuting an innocent man.
  • Al-Arian had been fired six days after his arrest, and thus two responses are particularly significant. The university administration apparently released a prepared statement -- which it did not post (?!) -- saying, "The University of South Florida is watching the recent legal developments," and then breaking the spell with a dangerously indiscreet "USF ended Sami Al-Arian's employment nearly three years ago, and we don't expect anything to change that." Meanwhile, Provost Renu Khator said, "Weíre going to see what happens tomorrow, what exactly comes out and what decision the judge makes."
    spacer Roy Weatherford, UFF Chapter President of USF, said, "At the risk of saying I told you so, I think this again demonstrates the importance of not allowing the punishment to come before the trial." And: "What was important to us was to guarantee that no faculty member be fired because somebody thinks they're guilty of something ... In the very beginning, the university overreacted and decided that they would rather fire someone without due process, and that's all we've ever been opposing."
    spacer Indeed, there was already some speculation over the university's legal exposure, should Al-Arian be in a position to press his case against the Board of Trustees (which he may not be: see below).
  • Reactions on USF campus were muted. UFF activist and USF Faculty Senate member Harry Vanden said that the fight at USF from 2001 to 2003 "... has made some watch what they say and do" (see Dec. 7 Tampa Tribune Even With Acquittal, Al-Arian Unlikely To Return To USF). Vanden also said, "I think as the full facts of the verdict in the case filter through, I think it really behooves the University of South Florida and President Genshaft to consider very carefully whether they might want to apologize to Dr. Al-Arian and reinstate him" (see the Dec. 7 USF Oracle report USF mute on verdict).
  • As reported in the Wednesday, Dec. 7 Tampa Tribune story Muslims Express Pride In Justice System, Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California said that the verdict was a triumph of "Martin Luther King America" over "McCarthy America," saying "That's the beauty of this country from our perspective ... We have more faith in the people of America than in the government in these trying times. ... This is the real America." And CAIR spokesman Ahmed Bedier said, "I'm proud to live in the Middle District of Florida."
  • Despite the All The World Is Watching reactions, pro and con, to the verdict, the world (or at least the media) seemed less interested in Al-Arian than idealists would hope. Lexis listed, under "General News: Major Papers" for the day after the verdict...
    • For "Scott Peterson" on Dec. 14, 2004, there are 34 hits.
    • For "Michael Jackson" on June 14, 2005, there are 211 hits.
    • For "Sami Al-Arian" on Dec. 7, 2005, there are only 17 hits.
The Oracle quoted Weatherford saying, "I think that a lot more people are going to understand why we said you should have the trial first and then the punishment, not the punishment first and then the trial ... Everybody is entitled to due process. Itís wrong to punish or fire someone because some people donít like them, disagree with them or think they are probably guilty." For reactions at opposite ends of the spectrum:
  • From the Right, Debbie Schlussel explains in Why Al-Arian Walked, writing, "I ... predicted all along ... that Sami Al-Arian and his three co-defendants would walk. Why? Because our Justice Department, while desperate for victories, is really not serious about the War on Terror."
  • From the Left, Joe Kay announces in the World Socialist Web Site that Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian acquitted on charges in Florida, and writing, "The massive attack on democratic rights is not aimed at the prevention of terrorism, but at the prosecution of dissident political views," and warned, "In the future, the criminalization of dissent will be broadened to encompass all those who challenge the policies of the US ruling elite."
Speculation turns to what is next.
  • Both Al-Arian and Fariz could be retried on the remaining counts against them, and governments have been known to go for retrials in politically charged cases -- or even to launch new charges (and there have already been discussions of new charges, especially tax charges). The New York Times weighed the alternatives, as reported in the Dec. 8 International Herald-Tribune, U.S. weighs tactics in terror case.
  • Hammoudi is leaving the country, while Ballut went back to Chicago, as reported in the Dec. 8 Tampa Tribune story 'After The Mountain Of Hardship, Yes, I Am Free'.
So two major sets of hurdles remain before Al-Arian could turn his attention to trying to get his job at USF back, assuming that he would want it. This is far from over. SUbsequently, on May 23, a juror identified as "Ron" appeared on WMNF's Radioactivity show, beginning 22 minutes, 10 seconds into the show to talk about deliberations: there were no surprises.



On Monday, Nov. 14, the closing arguments were over, and the case went to the jury. But first, Judge Moody switched to jurors: a juror who had grumbled (in court!) about the Defense was replaced by the alternate who had complained about the grumbling: see the Nov. 15 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian jurors switched for deliberations: A juror accused of making pro-government remarks is replaced by the alternate who complained about him. Meanwhile, Al-Arian's attorney has health problems that finally hit the newspapers: William Moffitt has lost 30 pounds over the past few months -- possibly due to an unnamed kidney complaint -- and has dozed in court several times: see the Nov. 15 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian's attorney fights fatigue: After five months of testimony and battling health problems, William Moffitt says he is totally exhausted from the long hours.
spacer The media waited a bit noisily for the verdict, and on Thursday, November 17, St Petersburg Times columnist Howard Troxler commented on the meaning of the verdict before it was in: Guilty or innocent, Al-Arian verdict reflects on America. Meanwhile, the Weekly Planet ran an interview, Al-Arian Speaks: In his first interview since the trial began, Sami Al-Arian talks about what the jury didn't hear. And the Tampa Tribune ran a Court of Public Opinion blurb saying that on the previous Tuesday, a Tampa Bay Online website (and hence `unscientific') survey on whether Al-Arian would be found guilty got over a thousand responses, with over 87 % saying that Al-Arian would be found guilty (and under 13 % that he would be found innocent: there is a cute round-off goof in the blurb). Somehow a copy of that issue, with blurb, found its way into the jury room that day, before the jury adjourned for the weekend.
spacer Thanksgiving shortened the second week of deliberations. Co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh's lawyer filed a mistrial motion based on the Court of Public Opinion survey reaching the jury room, as reported in the Nov. 24 St. Petersburg Times story Mistrial sought in Al-Arian case; jury takes holiday break: A lawyer for one of the defendants files the motion, citing an unofficial poll that surfaced last week in the jury room (the motion was denied on Nov. 30: see the Dec. 1 Oracle report Judge Rejects Al-Arian Mistrial Plea). Meanwhile, the need to speculate still pressed, and that very St. Petersburg Times story reported the views of various experts, e.g., a jury expert who said, "Lengthy deliberations usually mean a hung jury or acquittal." That same Thanksgiving Day, the Tampa Tribune speculated that Al-Arian Could Face Deportation, noting that while criminal prosecution requires that a case be prove beyond a reasonable doubt, all that is required for deportation is "clear and convincing evidence," and that the U.S. Patriot Act makes deportation easier.
spacer On Wednesday, Nov. 30 (in the third week of deliberations), google reported "about 206,000" hits for "al-arian", with this site third after the Tampa Bay On-line (TBO) Al-Arian page and the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace (TBCJP) Al-Arian page, which reported that this was Al-Arian's 1,013th day behind bars. And also on Nov. 30, the jury informed the Court that it planned to continue deliberating through Dec. 8: see the Dec. 1 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian jury extends its deliberation time: Jurors say they will work through Dec. 8 and have not expressed any problems with their work to the court. The story notes that the jury most plough through the testimony of about 80 witnesses, and evidence consisting of about 400 transcripts, as well as boxes of seized documents, all of which are "kept in dozens and dozens of bankers boxes on long tables" near the jury room, and match them with the 51 counts on the indictment.
spacer On Monday, Nov. 5, the jury composed two verdicts, which were promptly sealed by the Court as the jury continued to wrangle on the rest.


A Backwards Look

Before Al-Arian's arrest, this was a case of the Board of Trustees of USF versus Professor Al-Arian, and so was a case of academic politics. The Fall 2005 issue of the National Education Association journal Thought and Action had a special focus on "Higher Education and the National Security State" (see the Fall 2005 web-page), including an interview with Noam Chomsky, an article by Ellen Schrecker, ... and an article on A University's Dilemma in the Age of National Security on Al-Arian at USF by this website's webmaster Greg McColm and the USF Chapter of UFF's Membership Chair Sherman Dorn.


The Twentieth Week

As reported in the Nov. 8 Tampa Tribune, on Monday, Nov. 7, closing arguments began, with Al-Arian Likened To Don In Mafia by federal prosecutor Cherie Krigsman, who said of the defendants: "They don't strap bombs on their bodies ... They leave that to somebody else. But that makes perfect sense. Somebody has to be alive to mind the shop." Of the Defense claims that the defendants' activities were protected by the First Amendment, Krigsman retorted, "Words are the fuel of a criminal conspiracy." Nevertheless, as the Nov. 8 St. Petersburg Times noted in Prosecutor: Al-Arian jurors must infer links: She says "common sense" connects Sami Al-Arian and others to financial support of PIJ violence, "U.S. District Judge James S. Moody has said that Krigsman and her team of prosecutors must show that defendants had knowledge of PIJ violence, intended to support it with more than words, and did. It is not enough, said the judge, to show an association with the PIJ or words in sympathy, or support of a legal aim of the organization, like charitable giving." On Tuesday, the prosecution rested, and Al-Arianís team began their closing argument that Al-Arian had not been involved in any violence, and that his activities were all protected by the First Amendment. On Wednesday, co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh's attorney argued that his client had not even been connected to the PIJ: "The government has not offered any evidence that the people who received the money were somehow connected to the PIJ ... They argue: 'There was money. We don't know what happened to it.' We offer proof of money that went to the blind, the needy and the hungry"; see the Nov. 10 St. Petersburg Times story Evidence is lacking, Al-Arian defense says. On Thursday morning, attorneys for co-defendant Ghassan Ballut said that, "There is no evidence that Ghassan Ballut ever willfully joined in a conspiracy. None that he knew of an unlawful purpose or pursued an unlawful purpose. Guilt by association is the only way the government can prove its case," and derided the prosecution's metaphor of a "cycle of terror" as a "cycle of nonsense." In the afternoon, the attorney for co-defendant Hatem Fariz said that the money sent to the Occupied Territories went "for food packages, book bags . . . and an ambulance." The Prosecution then started its rebuttal arguments, saying that the case against the defendants was clear "from the vantage point that (the defendants) were part of a PIJ cell," but as to whether the defendants were actually part of a PIJ cell, in the Nov. 11 St. Petersburt Times report Al-Arian defense: No real evidence: The defendants' attorneys present their "cycle of nonsense" to refute the prosecution's "cycle of terror", the reporter asks, "Exactly what evidence does the prosecution have to show the defendants were part of a PIJ cell?" and gives as the two answers, "Nothing that clearly connects, says the prosecution. Nothing at all, says the defense."


The Nineteenth Week

The end, if that is what it is, is coming suddenly. The Defense for co-defendent Ghassan Ballut also chose to rest, and the other two defendents presented their cases in a few days, resting on Tuesday. The Defense for Hatem Fariz called Ms. Fariz to the stand to say that she didn't know anything about her husband's fundraising activities (a claim then disputed by an FBI rebuttal witness) while the Defense for Sameeh Hammoudeh called his father, leading to a peculiar dispute in which the father said that money raised went to orphans while the prosecution contended that it went to widows. Next comes closing arguments, which are scheduled to start on Monday, November 7; lawyers speculated that the case could go to the jury by the end of that week. See the Nov. 2 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian trial's end in sight after 5 months.


The Eighteenth Week

On the early morning of October 24, Hurrican Wilma -- an irritatingly unpredictable storm that had already wreaked havoc along the northeastern coast of the Yucatan -- passed about a hundred miles south of Tampa. As a precaution, almost everything official was closed (although the mail did go through). Anyway, the trial reopened on the 25th, and as the prosecution prepared to rest its case, the defense made the standard motion to dismiss. The Oct. 26 St. Petersburg Times reported that Al-Arian dismissal requests denied, quoting Al-Arian's attorney saying, "In the United States, we punish actors not speakers," and that "there was not one act associating Dr. Al-Arian with the military wing (of the PIJ)." The prosecution apparently did not respond directly to this point, contending that Al-Arian was "spending his nights trying to keep the PIJ alive" without going into details. Nevertheless, the charges were not dismissed, the prosecution rested, and ...
spacer ... the Defense rested. Al-Arian's defense chose not to present a case for the arrest, as described in the Oct. 27 ABC Action News Story Al-Arian's attorneys suddenly rest case without calling witnesses; Al-Arian's attorney William Moffitt explained that "The government hasn't proven anything other than that Dr. Al-Arian spoke about current events and organized and discussed the situation in Palestine. And in this country, even a Palestinian has the right to discuss what is happening to his people in Palestine." And on October 29, the Tampa Tribune noted, with some regret, in The Teaser in Al-Arian Case, that potential defense witnesses had included Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich, David Bonior, Karl Rove and Grover Norquist.
spacer However, Al-Arian has co-defendents, whose lawyers plan to present cases, so the trial continues ... and the Defense of Sameeh Hammoudeh started by calling USF Professor Trevor Purcell, who said that Hammoudeh had been a diligent graduate student. See the Nov. 2 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian trial's end in sight after 5 months.



The trial was in recess during the week of October 17 - 21, and the Tampa Tribune turned to the Islamic Academy of Florida, the private religious school Al-Arian had co-founded. The Tribune reported on October 22 that School Purging Links To Al-Arian: the Academy was dissolved and its assets and debts assumed by a new American Youth Academy, a private Muslim school. The caretaker of what is left of the Islamic Academy said that "If Sami Al-Arian made mistakes, it had nothing to do with us," and said that when Al-Arian was arrested, he left the Academy "in shambles." The new principal said that half of the old Islamic Academy's staff are gone because "they just were not qualified," and a parent said of the new American Youth Academy that "It's a completely different school."
spacer Then on Sunday, October 23, the St. Petersburg Times asked the central question, Is there enough to convict Al-Arian? (optimistically subtitled, "The prosecution is expected to rest its case against the former University of South Florida professor this week"). In this review of what one prosecutor described as a trial of "a small group of intellectual elitists," that prosecutor is later quoted saying, "What you'll see repeatedly is fundraising events to try to get money for the family of some guy that's going to blow himself up and murder a bunch of people. . . . It's how they buy loyalty" (notice the future tense: the prosecutor contends that the money was raised before the bombing itself). At this point, reporter Meg Laughlin writes that "Contrary to what Furr said, there has been no evidence to show that Al-Arian or any of the defendants sent money to anyone about to commit a suicide bombing," but then writes that "But there is repeated, undisputed evidence that defendants raised money for what defense attorneys call 'the charitable arm of the PIJ.'" While the prosecution here has been relying on the "money is fungible" argument, the report turns to Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, who says that the charitable operations of organizations like the PIJ are genuine ... and should be regarded as part of the public relations arms of those organizations: "It gives the PIJ a benevolent face in the community, which breeds a sense of duty to it that, in an indirect way, can contribute to suicide killing." On the other hand, while the the paramilitary operations themselves are logistically and psychologically demanding, they are cheap, "usually costing under $100." This is a view very different from that presented by the prosecution, which has been relying more on good ol' boys and occasional ideologues than on experts, which may be one reason why the prosecution's case is plagued with missteps (your tax dollars at work). The Times also ran two ancillary articles, one on Al-Arian's co-defendents ( Case against three built on bank records), and yet another timeline of events leading up to the trial of Sami Al-Arian.
spacer Meanwhile, the trial is supposed to reopen on Monday, October 24, just as hurricane Wilma should be arriving ...


The Seventeenth Week

Then after three days of websites -- someone was using one of the co-defendents' computers to send laudatory e-mails to a PIJ site -- the trial recessed again, until Monday, October 24.


The Sixteenth Week

The trial resumed on Monday, October 3, as the prosecution sent former University of Mississippi mathematics professor Abdul Raouf Dabus to the stand to talk about a phone call he had with Al-Arian eleven years ago. Dabus said that they talked about HAMAS and PIJ activities, but only in a general way -- like "watching CNN or Fox" -- and then compared HAMAS and PIJ charitable work to the support now being extended to Katrina refugees. Under cross examination, Dabus said that the trial made him worry about Palestinians in America, wondering about their status if "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 jail?" concluding "Our kids, will they have a future here? I don't know." See the October 4 St. Petersburg Times story Prosecutor's witness tells another point: A former math professor close to Sami Al-Arian says discussing the PIJ is like "watching CNN or Fox." and the Tampa Tribune story Friend Testifies He Gave Al-Arian Jihad Update. Much of the rest of the week was spent on the material from websites Al-Arian's computer had allegedly visited, as the prosecution made noises about preparing to rest its case. Meanwhile, this site is third out of the "about 178,000" sites, the first being the Free Sami Al-Arian mentioned before, and, unusual for Google's top three, an anti-Al-Arian page maintained by David Horowitz's network on the Left-wing networks, Discover the Network.


The Fifteenth Week

The trial resumed on Monday, with FBI Agent Ed Ortega being so confident that wiretapped conversations containing references to buying books and shirts were code that he did not bother to check whether any books or shirts had been bought: see the Sept. 20 Tampa Tribune story, Prosecutors, Al-Arian Defense Dispute Payment. Meanwhile, the defense complained about material that the prosecution had downloaded from an alleged PIJ site (better set volume before clicking) and wanted to introduce as evidence; the defense would need several additional weeks to study the evidence. On Thursday, the Court decided to admit the website into evidence, and give the defense two weeks to look at the material, recessing until October 3: see the September 23 Tampa Tribune story Judge Recesses Al-Arian Trial.


The Fourteenth Week

On Monday, the prosecution put a victim of another PIJ terrorist attack on the stand, again without actually connecting the attack directly with the defendents. The rationale was that the attack was part of a plan of extortion designed get Israelis to emigrate, and thus the defendents were also guilty of extortion. See the September 13 Tampa Tribune story Israeli Testifies In Al-Arian Trial. Things got worse on Tuesday, when the prosecution presented an official Israeli report on family relationships between PIJ members; the prosecution presented the report, written in Hebrew, while projecting an English translation on a screen so the jury could follow it. The problem is ... the defense had not seen the translation in advance. After adjournment, Al-Arian attorney William Moffitt yelled at prosecutor Cheri Krigsman, saying, "You want to put a guy in jail for life, so you cheat! You cheat all the time," to which Krigsman responded, "Geez ... Calm down." For more, see the Sept. 14 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian attorney, FBI agent lock horns: The near-fight, during a court break, occurs as the attorney berates a woman prosecutor over evidence. The court took the rest of the week off as Judge Moody went to a conference.


The Thirteenth Week

Juror 325 had "made little comments" about "somebody involved with Palestinian Islamic Jihad being killed," which had irritated Juror 243 into complaining to Judge Moody. When Moody asked other jurors what they had heard (getting various responses, Prosecutor Terry Zitek complained that, "This could go on forever, and I don't see how it really matters." But the Defense moved that Juror 325 be dismissed; see the Sept. 7 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian lawyers keep pressing for juror's dismissal: Debate over whether a juror showed prejudice overshadows testimony on Tampa bank transfers. Despite the legal difficulties, the trial continued, with testimony on bank transfers made in the aftermath of President Clinton's ban on support for the PIJ: see the Sept. 8 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian trial spotlights bank account transfers: After a U.S. executive order, the former USF professor was afraid cash tied to a terror group would be seized, prosecutors say. On Thursday, the Prosecution told the Court it expected to rest its case in about three weeks. See the Sept. 9 Tampa Tribune story Deal Shortening Al-Arian Trial.


The Twelfth Week

On Monday, the trial suddenly got in trouble.

  • As the August 30 Tampa Tribune reported in Al-Arian Witness Is An Issue, the various Defenses (the separate defendents are represented by different attorneys) had been under the impression that the Court had accepted FBI agent Kerry Myers as an expert on the PIJ during his multiple-week testimony about electronic intercepts of Al-Arian's communications. Kerry had admitted a certain amount of ignorance of the PIJ during cross-examination by Al-Arian's attorney William Moffitt, but much of the cross-examinations were pockmarked by Court refusals to let questions on the background -- i.e., questions on Kerry's apparent expertise -- be put to Kerry. When Kerry initially took the stand, the Court had said that "you can understand how that could cause heartburn for any defendant in any case if they have an FBI agent up there testifying as an expert," but on Monday, the Court said that it had never taken Kerry as an expert after all. Moffitt complained that the Court had mucked up his cross-examination, while co-defendent Hatim Fariz's attorney moved for a mistrial.
  • Meanwhile, two jurors said that they heard a third juror say that the Al-Arian's Islamic Academy of Florida was a front for the PIJ, which started a tiff because jurors are not supposed to talk about (or listen to extracurricular talk about) a case as it is being heard. Then on Wednesday (as the Sept. 1 St. Petersburg Times reported), Al-Arian's judge refuses to declare a mistrial: But problems in the case remain, with a claim that the jury was tainted by one juror's improper statements.
On Tuesday, the prosecution presented evidence that Al-Arian had raised money for families of PIJ suicide bombers; see the St. Petersburg Times article Al-Arian's transfers of funds spotlighted: Relatives of convicted killers may have received money.
spacer On Thursday, FBI agent Michael Wysocki testified that both WISE and the Islamic Concern Project were in financial difficulties in the early 1990s, and that charitable donations were diverted to keep them afloat: see the September 2 Tampa Tribune article Collected `Charity' Went Elsewhere, FBI Agent Testifies At Al-Arian Trial. This was one more bit of testimony suggesting that instead of WISE and the ICP being used to assist the PIJ, it may have been the other way around: see the Sept. 2 St. Petersburg Times article Al-Arian trial focuses on money flow: Evidence shows most of the funds coming from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, not going to it.


The Eleventh Week

"The world must construe according to its wits," says John Bolt's Thomas More; "this court must construe according to the law." Arthur Lowrie, a member of the USF committee that tried to launch a Middle Eastern Studies program, and which served as USF's original contact with WISE, recently said that "Sami's lies damaged the university and destroyed the good work being done by the committee" (see the April 17, 2005 St. Petersburg Times perspective article USF after Al-Arian). Now with the trial proceeding, others are voicing unhappiness with what the picture of Al-Arian the prosecution is painting suggests. In the August 24, 2005 Weekly Planet, Jim Harper spoke of a telephone interview he did of Al-Arian in October, 1995, in which Al-Arian had claimed ignorance of former WISE director Ramadan Abdullah/Shallah's PIJ connections; the prosecution presented evidence that Al-Arian had misled Harper, who was working for the St. Petersburg Times at the time. Harper, who later was editor of The Weekly Planet (but has since left) told the Planet that "It pisses me off, just as it does when anyone lies to me." John Sugg, a investigative reporter for the Weekly Planet who has covered the Al-Arian case intensively for years, was more reserved: "Sami was, without a doubt, disingenuous ... I told him once that he'd lose it all if it came out that he had shaded the truth. I'm not sure he ever directly lied to me, but he certainly misled me over the degree of involvement he apparently had in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad." (Again, the PIJ itself contended that Al-Arian was active in the PIJ before Clinton declared the PIJ to be a terrorist organization in early 1995; Al-Arian has denied ever supporting the PIJ.) But Harper pointed out Bolt's observation about the law: "There could be any number of reasons why Sami wasn't completely truthful to me ... [But] that doesn't necessarily mean he was raising money for terrorists or helping to run a terrorist organization, which is the crime he's been charged with." For more, see Upon Further Review: Two journalists reflect on their relationships with the accused terrorist.
spacer While colleagues and reporters construe with their wits, the courts wrestle with fitting the pegs of evidence into the pegholes of the law. This week, Al-Arian's lawyer William Moffitt finally got to cross examine FBI agent Kerry Myers, who had presented the wiretap evidence, and got Myers to agree that the FBI had not found any evidence linking Al-Arian to any specific terrorist acts of the PIJ. But Myers did say that there was a FBI report on PIJ plans for terrorist acts in America (see the August 24 St. Petersburg Times story Defense takes center stage), but the August 25 Tampa Tribune reported in "Attorney For Al-Arian Co-Defendant Points Finger At Others" that Myers said the evidence is classified and that Judge Moody decided that the admissibility of Myers' comment depends on whether the Defense will have access to the report. (The PIJ has contended that it has never targeted America, and has no intention of doing so.) Meanwhile, Judge Moody has taken a narrow view of cross examination, refusing, for example, to let the defense explore videotapes of Al-Arian speaking at a rally by asking about other videotapes recorded at the rally; the videotapes have been controversial because they typically are edited ...


The Tenth Week

In both the original indictment and the superseding indictment, the period from 1995 to 2000 -- from the dissolution of WISE to the release of Mazen Al-Najjar (or, if you prefer, from the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to Ariel Sharon's appearance at the Dome of the Rock) -- is a period of many financial transactions and routine communications as part of some kind of organizational effort. Since these transactions and communications took place after President Clinton declared the PIJ to be a terrorist organization, these are the events that lie at the legal center of the prosecution's case; however dramatic or compelling the events of 1987 - 1994, the PIJ was not verboten then. And this is ultimately a racketeering case, which means that it relies not so much on the individual actions of the defendent as on the pattern of actions making up the illegal activity: and such patterns, being complex, require a lot of exploration for the jury to see their illegal character. So as one might imagine that a conviction being somewhere on the prosecution's list of priorities, one would suppose that the prosecution would go over the long list of transactions and communications in the 1995 - 2000 period with some care, especially as the indictments themselves do not go into the distinction between operational support for the PIJ and operational support for any other organizations Al-Arian might be involved in, like his extensive missionary activity. But instead, the prosecution glided through those five years as if on skates:

  • On Monday, the prosecution went over the Beit Lid suicide bombing on January 22, which was the proximate cause of Clinton's proscription. On Aug. 16, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Witnesses detail Israel bombings at Al-Arian trial, in which Judge Moody denies a defense motion to block testimony on the bombing (the defense contended that the testimony was inflammatory and that Al-Arian had not been connected to the bombing), and then the bombing was graphically described (a bomb technician collected '"tiny pieces of human flesh and charred materials" from walls and tree bark').
  • Of Tuesday, the Aug. 17 St. Petersburg Times reported that Evidence covers five years quickly, beginning with the lead, "Prosecutors picked up the pace in the federal trial of Sami Al- Arian Tuesday, spanning five years in five hours."
  • For the rest of the week, the trial turned on 2000 and later, with Al-Arian being watched and pursued, and concerned about being watched and pursued, as described in the Aug. 18 story Wiretaps: Al-Arian tried to prove legitimacy and the Aug. 19 story Al-Arian, others feared government action.
It is possible that the prosecution was just being mindful of Judge Moody's warning about boring the jury, but one would hope that a case with such high stakes would be taken seriously, at least by all officers of the court. Incidentally, the Tampa Tribune is covering the trial as extensively as the Times, but as the Tribune breaks URL links after a month and charges $ 1.95 per searched article, we are presenting routine links to the Times website; there may be a moral there somewhere.


The Ninth Week

The prosection now moved into the more sensitive issue of Al-Arian's activities in 1995. Last week, the prosecution presented a lot of evidence that Al-Arian engaged in the sort of activities that ... Oliver North engaged in, handling funds and other logistics for terrorist organizations. (The defense has yet to cross-examine, so all that can be said at the moment is that the prosecution's evidence in the eighth week was inconsistent with Al-Arian's past descriptions of his activity, but consistent with the PIJ's own description of Al-Arian's activity, but at any rate, not illegal, which is admittedly a low bar for behavior, but the only one a court should use.) But as of early 1995, providing logistical support for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad became (probably) illegal, so the trial is apparently finally moving from background to actionable material. There were two substantial items this week.

  • Back in 1995, Al-Arian wrote a letter to a donor praising the (terrorist) efforts of the PIJ, and asking for money to support more of the same. Al-Arian contended that the letter, seized in 1995, was never sent (we all write letters we decide, on second thought, not to send), and the letter's status was problematic. Nevertheless, the prosecution introduced the letter on Monday, claiming that it was evidence of Al-Arian's activity, and then on Tuesday, contended that the letter had been hand delivered. See the August 10 St. Petersburg Times story on how Report jolts Al-Arian's attorneys, the jolt being that the prosecution was actually supposed to tell the defense that it had evidence of delivery before presenting it to the court, which led to the usual technical squabble.
  • Then the prosecution moved to October, 1995, when Ramadan Abdalla, one of WISE's directors, surfaced as the new secretary-general (with a new name, Ramadan Shallah) of the PIJ after Secretary-General Fathi Shikaki was assassinated. According to the prosecution, when St. Petersburg Times reporter Jim Harper asked Al-Arian after the appointment, Al-Arian expressed incredulity, which the prosecution contended was evidence of ... misleading the press. See the August 12 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian's discussions with reporter examined.
Meanwhile the gentle webmaster is increasingly irritated with the inability or unwillingness of the Middle District Court to post transcripts on the docket, which as of this moment has 1,283 items, including cover pages of transcripts. I was informed over the phone that members of the public are permitted to request copies, at 50 cents a page, but the conversation got hazy when I asked if I could look at transcripts. And this site is slipping, to fourth out of "about 97,700" hits on Google, after (in order) Free Sami Al-Arian, The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian, and Tampa Bay On-Line's Al-Arian page.


The Eighth Week

In the first week of August, the prosecution continued to present testimony from FBI agent Kerry Myers on wiretap transcripts and electronic intercepts, with Al-Arian making financial arrangements for the PIJ -- in 1994, when that did not violate RICO or anti-terrorism statutes. On August 2, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Jurors hear of Al-Arian's PIJ role in trying to get the PIJ to cough up more money for WISE; on August 3, the Times reported more on the dilemma between giving funds to families of PIJ "martyrs" and giving the money to WISE, and reported that Wiretaps: Al-Arian tried raid on account. The week ended with accounts of discussions of a 1994 suicide bombing committed by HAMAS or the PIJ (both claiming credit) committed in retaliation for Kach member Baruch Goldstein's shooting up a crowd in Hebron.


The Seventh Week

On July 26, the e-magazine FrontPage, which is part of David Horowitz's campaign to impose governmental restrictions on academic freedom, ran a column by Joe Kaufman on the trial, where he grumpily reports in his account of What I Saw at al-Arian's Trial that the Defense is defending the case, and that Al-Arian has sympathizers. Kaufman is also concerned about the amount of technical detail, as is the July 26 St. Petersburg Times, as reported in Ponderous translating wearies Al-Arian jurors. For whatever reason, the prosecution decided opted for more videos on Tuesday, as the July 27 St. Petersburg Times reported in FBI agent testifies on video of Al-Arian. But alas, there is nothing for it: the case is complex and there is no avoiding the technical details -- for whatever the pundits may say, the truth often can best be found in the details -- and the trial returned to the details, as reported in the July 28 St. Petersburg Times story Is it the language of terrorism? ... with the headline referring to the alleged encryption of messages. On July 29, the trial got down to brass tacks as the prosecution went into salaries, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times story Court told PIJ pay sent to 4 at think tank.


The Sixth Week

On July 18, Ziad Abu-Amr, a Palestinian statesman and an expert in Palestinian extremism called as a prosecution witness, described a Palestinian Islamic Jihad that was different from the one described by the prosecution (and from the one described by Abu-Amr himself in his 1994 book Islamic fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza : Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad), saying that the PIJ funds sports camps, kindergartens, child care, and health services. The St. Petersburg Times July 19 story Al-Arian witness is defense's friend may explain the discrepancy in images by suggesting that the old image of the PIJ might be dated or incomplete: Abu-Amr is quoted saying, "It is easier now to find the institutions and charities supported or funded by Islamic Jihad ... But they were there before 1994." 1994 is a big year, as the July 20 Tampa Tribune reported in, "Trial Depicts Islamic Jihad Infighting," and the St. Petersburg Times reported that Government gets key evidence on the record, but that the language used by the defendents in their planning and infighting was encoded. But on Thursday, the St. Petersburg Times reported in Martyrdom a key issue in Al-Arian trial that papers the government seized in 1995 contained a will by a Palestinian killed while attacking Israeli soldiers, and a letter of condolence.


The Fifth Week

The trial resumed on July 11, when AP reported that Al-Arian jurors say London bombings won't affect them. On July 12, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Security grows in Al-Arian trial, although it was not a reaction to the London bombings but apparently instead to a Father's Day card one of co-defendent Sameeh Hammoudeh's children gave him. That was the day that the prosecution played a video of a scene from a 1991 rally in Cleveland, where Al-Arian was introduced as, "the head of the Islamic Committee for Palestine . . . the active arm of the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine," and where Al-Arian said, "The stones that the boy, who is less than 5 years old, carries and this mother who receives the martyrdom of her children with smiles and trills of joy ... because her son has been martyred for the cause of Palestine ..."; the July 13 St. Petersburg Times reported that Rally video a blow to Al-Arian defense. That was the high point of a week that concluded with a predictable squabble over what the word "jihad" means: see the July 15 St. Petersburg Times story Lawyers niggle over translations at Al-Arian trial.


The Fourth Week

The June 28 Tribune reported in Discussion Of Secret Wiretaps Begins In Al-Arian Trial, that federal agents had obtained secret warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to wiretap WISE, but the microphones didn't work (the FBI agent is quoted saying, "I won't say they never worked ... They didn't work as we anticipated they would work"). The prosecution also entered as evidence a lot of material that WISE people had downloaded from very dodgy sites, under the theory that downloading material from dodgy sites is a suspicious activity. Note: the webmaster of this archive has downloaded a lot of dodgy material as part of his archival activities. Then the June 29 St. Petersburg Times story "Al-Arian judge casts doubt on Web use evidence" concludes with the following exchange: One of Al-Arian's co-defendent's lawyers asks a former immigration officer, "Do you think the Islamic religion is an enemy of the United States government?" As the reporter puts it, 'After a noticeable pause,' the officer said, "Not to my knowledge." This exchange does not appear on the on-line version of the story, Al-Arian judge skeptical: Judge James S. Moody questions the validity of evidence of Web sites visited by a co-defendant.
spacer On Wednesday, June 29, the trial adjourned after hearing testimony about $ 60,000 dollars in financial transactions, most of them during Ramadan, a holy month on the Islamic calendar often associated with charitable donations; the prosecution contends that the charitable organizations are PIJ fronts. Then the prosecution handed out copies of a "manifesto" of the PIJ that the prosecution says was found on a WISE computer. The court is in recess until July 11, and a recent deal by the defense and prosecution to enter stipulations as to the facts concerning 14 PIJ bombings (and the lack of direct connections between the defendents and the bombings) has eliminated nearly one-fourth of the prosecution's 203 witnesses, and may result in shortening the trial to four months or so. See the June 30 St. Petersburg Times story, Al-Arian jurors get a break - with homework: Prosecutors regroup after their witness list shrinks; they send jurors home with a PIJ manifesto for leisure reading, and the June 30 Tampa Tribune story, Al-Arian Trial Shifts Focus To Money.
spacer While the jury has a break, the hearings continue. The prosecution will not be permitted to present details like, "Pieces of body parts ... decapitated heads ... the stench of burning flesh ... internal organs falling out" on the 14 bombings, and so a similar deal to stipulate to the dry facts of three other bombings is opposed by the prosecution, which wants to supply the ugly realities of the bombings to the jury: Prosecutor Cherie Krigsman is quoted saying, "We stipulated away a busload of middle schoolers burning to death ... and the attack on the children's festival," and insists on its right to present graphic details of the other three bombings. The defense does not see how the horror of the situation is relevant to the question of whether Al-Arian and his co-defendents were involved in the bombings (in situations like this, the defense worries that the jury might be persuaded to convict based on the horror of the crime, and not the conclusiveness of the evidence connecting the defendent to the crime) and prefers a stipulation to the facts of the other three bombings as well. See the July 1 St. Petersburg Times story Carnage description debated in Al-Arian trial: Prosecutors want to describe three bombings to avoid calling witnesses. Defense lawyers say the language is inflammatory, and the July 1 Tampa Tribune story, Al-Arian Prosecutors Challenge Judge's Power.
spacer Meanwhile, the ranking of this site is slipping: as of June 29, 2005, this site was fourth out of ďabout 78,500" sites listed by Google under "al-arian," although it is still second of "about 48,500" listed under "sami al-arian."


The Third Week

On Tuesday, both sides stipulated circumstantial facts about 14 suicide bombings credited to the PIJ; the stipulation included assigning responsibility to the PIJ, and that none of the defendents currently on trial were personally involved in the attacks themselves; see the June 22, 2005 Tampa Tribune story Prosecutors Of Al-Arian Portray `Economic Jihad', which described testimony by government witnesses who provided background on the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, former FBI agent Michael Levitt was not permitted to discuss Al-Arian's connection to a man who was an officer of an anti-Soviet organization founded by Osama bin Laden; see the June 21 ABC Action News (WFTS TV-28) story Jury won't hear testimony linking Al-Arian to Osama bin Laden.
spacer On Thursday, the prosecution presented a document in which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad pledged "total solidarity" with HAMAS; the document was found in a WISE computer in 1995, and has the name "Islamic Committee for Palestine" (one of Al-Arian's organizations) on the bottom. The June 24 Tribune story Document Ties Al-Arian Group To Jihad, Prosecutors Say presented this as a link between WISE and the PIJ. Interestingly, the document was presented as having been composed in 1989, shortly after the Muslim Brotherhood (which had problems with the PIJ) created HAMAS. Meanwhile, the June 24 Times was increasingly bored by the minutae of the case, reporting that Skies may be wet, but Al-Arian testimony dry: As rain falls outside, jurors struggle to fight boredom while listening to detailed evidence about computer documents.


The Second Week

Perhaps in response to Judge Moody's lament that the prosecution was boring the court, the prosecution starting warming things up this week, and also started hopping around. Much of the week was spent on Al-Arian's activities on campus, with mixed results. On Thursday, the prosecution called Stephen Flatow to the stand, so he could recount the death of his 20-year-old daughter Alisa, in the 1995 suicide bombing that inspired President Clinton's ban on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad; see the St. Petersburg Times June 17 story Al-Arian testimony gets dramatic: A father and a friend tell the court about a young woman's death in a suicide bombing in Israel; the Times reports that the ensuing 15-minute break lacked the usual chatter; Alisa's friend, Kesari Ruza, is quoted in the June 17 Orlando Sentinel story Terror survivor testifies at Al-Arian trial: A woman describes the bloody scene of a 1995 bus bombing that killed her friend, that "There was blood everywhere ... There was blood on us, blood on our bags." This was a hop, for as of yet, Al-Arian and his co-defendents have not been tied to any illegal PIJ activities, although the prosecution is promising to do so; the convention is that the prosecution is supposed to build a proper foundation for a topic before bringing the topic up.


The first week

The trial started with a massive overview of the background as the prosecution reviewed the Palestine-Israel conflict and the terrorist organizations involved. By Wednesday, June 8, the Tampa Tribune was complaining that, "Testimony In Al-Arian Trial Begins With A Few Yawns," quoting Judge Moody saying, "And you were wondering how this trial could possibly last six months?" and advising Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Zitek to get things going or to "or bring a supply of No-Doz."
spacer Things did get interesting on that Wednesday, for on Thursday, June 9, the St. Petersburg Times reported that documents seized on the morning of Nov. 25, 1995 were being presented in court (see Evidence against Al-Arian is shown: A portion of the items seized during a raid on the offices of the organization Al-Arian founded yields what prosecutors say are links to terrorism); these included documents with what appeared to be the official Palestinian Islamic Jihad logo, a copy of a letter to the British Consulate saying that the then-new Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad works for (the article used present tense) WISE, and a letter dated Nov. 25, 1995 (!), leading to what observers of courthouse shenanigans might call a Hillsborough County moment. The defense zeroed in on the date of the last item, asking, "You can't tell if you're looking at an original or a copy of what was seized, can you?" to which the answer was no, and hence the FBI agent presenting the documents could not attest to their authenticity either. Judge Moody then said that the agent shouldn't have to say whether the documents were originals or copies, saying, "What was seized was seized." (The Tampa Tribune did not report this exchange.)
spacer For those interested in comparing media obsessions, here are the number of hits on Lexis-Nexis Universe under "General News: Major Papers," for articles containing anywhere in their text the word string, during the first week of the respective trials...

  • "Scott Peterson" from Sunday, October 17 to Saturday, October 23, 2004 inclusive: 16 hits (and some of these were for Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson);
  • "Michael Jackson" from Sunday, February 27 to Saturday, March 5, 2005 inclusive: 321 hits;
  • "Sami al-Arian" from Sunday, June 5 to Saturday, June 11, 2005 inclusive: 49 hits.
Meanwhile, UFF must not be as strongly associated with Al-Arian as it once was, for during the week before and during the trial, the UFF accounts received (besides the usual press releases) only one e-mail on Al-Arian (which was critical of the union, of course).


Starting the Trial

As of June 5, 2005, this site is the first of "about 72,900" sites on "al-arian." While there have been a number of media trials recently -- the jury in the case of People of the State of California v. Michael Joe Jackson is deliberating as I write this -- this is perhaps the most publicized political trial for many years. Nevertheless, as Court TV's current indifference suggests (as of June 5, there was no Al-Arian page on the site, and only two story pages, from 2001 and 2003), the media may not be as interested in a trial with virtually no sexual aspects. Still, officials surrounded the courthouse with yellow plastic barriers which, when filled with water, are theoretically as effective as concrete barriers, and the USF connection was underlined in the June 6 USF Oracle story Al-Arian trial begins today, reported that USF six faculty members and administrators were on the witness list already. Members of the public may attend the trial, space permitting (and there isn't much space), but photo ID is required, and no recording equipment is allowed: see the page on the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, named after the U.S. Congressman who was, more than anyone else, the creator of USF. Meanwhile, we will continue to watch, with concern, from a distance.


Selecting the Jury

This is, according to the defense, a political trial, which means that a jury is supposed to be especially aware of its ancient role as a bulwark against tyranny. But times have changed, and counsel are more restricted in the arguments that they make in court, and juries are selected with more deliberation. The first sign of the time was the court's refusal to permit Al-Arian's defense to go into the history of Palestine during the trial; see Judge blocks combat defense: Sami Al-Arian won't be allowed to use the Middle Eastern conflict or history as a defense in his trial.

  • On the other hand, on May 19, 2005, the (London) Independent reported that "Florida Court Summons 100 Israelis to Testify in Islamic Jihad Trial" in order to "... allow an American jury to review not just abstract evidence of alleged terrorist fundraising, but to understand its concrete and gruesome end-product to see 'what terror looks like'." (The Independent opined that in the aftermath of the rather unfortunate proceedings against Zacharias Moussaoui, that, "Successful prosecution of the case is highly important for the credibility of US legal efforts to deal with terrorism.")
Perhaps the most high-profile act of terrorism likely to be discussed is the April 9, 1995 suicide bombing of a bus at the Israeli settlement Kfar Daroom, which killed eight people, including an American student Alisa Flatow (see the May 13 AP story, "Al-Arian, three others to face jury on terrorism financing charges"). Then came the jury selection, starting Monday, May 16, with U.S. District Judge James Moody presiding.
  • About five hundred potential jurors got questionnaires, of whom 322 returned them. The court tossed about half of the answering jurors out, and took four days assembling a jury of six men and six women for a trial the court said should take about six months.
  • The defense filed several motions on a change of venue, citing the pretrial publicity, especially during the U.S. Senate campaign. Judge Moody said that he would wait to see what the jury pool looked like before making a decision; on Wednesday, May 18, Judge Moody said that after three days of cuts, the remaining prospective jurors "seem like good jurors to me all the way through" (see the May 19 St. Petersburg Times story Judge: 'Good jurors' ready in Al-Arian trial; As the pool is whittled down, Judge James Moody signals the trial may stay in Tampa. And indeed, on Thursday, a jury of six men and six women was impaneled, along with ten alternates, although the motion for a change of venue remained, as noted by the May 20 St. Petersburg Times: Jury is ready; motion lingers to move trial.
  • The prosecution seemed quite happy with the jury pool, but the defense was not ... and the media was nosy. The cuts made on Monday were very narrow, permitting jurors like the one who said the police wouldn't have spent so much time on Al-Arian if there wasn't anything there to remain on the panel; jurors who made such remarks and then said that they could still be fair seemed to stay on the panel. The judge did excuse those who said things like, "I formed pretty strong opinions already." Meanwhile, six media organs wanted to sniff at the jury questionnaire responses, as reported in the Tampa Tribune, May 16 "Al-Arian Jury Selection Continues This Afternoon" and May 17 "Al-Arian Jury Pool Cut From 46 To 35." (On May 18, the St. Petersburg posted the Al-Arian juror questionnaire.) The media also wanted to report on the jurors, a desire initially denied by the court, but modified on Wednesday (see the May 18 St. Petersburg Times, Al-Arian lawyers search for bias: So far, about 70 people have been okayed for jury duty) although the press was still barred from publishing jurors' names.
Despite concerns expressed by the defense, by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and by UFF (see the resolution), on May 20, the Tribune editorialized that "There is no reason to believe this panel cannot judge Al-Arian and his co-defendants fairly or that any other jury panel in any other Florida city would give him better justice" and concluded the jurors "will reach a verdict for each man based on what they learn in court."
spacer Meanwhile, on Monday, May 22, the Tampa Tribune ran a story on how "Belief In Al-Arian-9/11 Link False Yet Not Uncommon," on how Palestinian organizations like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and HAMAS have quite different agendas from al Qaida, and yet the groups are often conflated by the public. On Tuesday, Judge Moody ruled that the trial would not be moved, noting that only nine percent of the jurors excused were excused because they expressed prejudice: see the curiously headlined St Petersburg Times May 24 article
Al-Arian trial will stay in Tampa: Only 9 percent of those excused from jury duty showed prejudice against the ex-USF professor, a judge's ruling notes.


Last Minute Motions

Jury selection is set to start on Monday, May 16, and the trial on June 6. The defense has been making a few motions.

    On May 6, the Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Trial Delayed 3 More Weeks, reporting that while jury selection will start on May 16, the trial itself is to start on June 6. This postponement followed a defense motion to move the trial, citing a "breadth of negative sentiment" towards Al-Arian in Tampa, his high name recognition, and his prominence in last fall's senate election. While the court did not grant the change in venue, the story reports that courts typically await questioning potential jurors before deciding to move. See also the May 6 article in the St. Petersburg Times on Al-Arian's trial is delayed until June: Jury selection will continue this month, but the trial will await a change of venue ruling.
  • On May 7, the Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Lawyer Argues Motions, where Al-Arian's lawyers argued that Al-Arian was non-violent and should be permitted to argue that he was being persecuted because of his activities, while the prosecution contended that Al-Arian was being prosecuted for specified criminal actions and should not be allowed to go into the politics. The court ruled in favor of the prosecution.


The Trial is Coming

More articles on the upcoming trial.


A Statement of the Union

At the April 1 meeting of the USF Chapter of the UFF, after hearing descriptions of the state of the legal proceedings, the Chapter resolved to issue make a statement on the al-Arian case, particularly in regards to his right to a fair trial and the consequent necessity for a change of venue. The Chapter also resolved to send a representative to the opening session (of the trial or comparable legal proceedings); this representative would not be empowered to speak for the Chapter, but would represent by her presence the Chapter's concern.
spacer At the April 2-3 meeting of the UFF Senate, the statewide legislative body of the union local, the Senate heard how al-Arian has been treated, from the practical (he is only permitted pencils stubs too short to hold properly, and has had difficulties getting batteries for his tape player, on which he plays the tapes that the government recorded) to the symbolic (when he goes to see his lawyers, he has his hands manacled behind him, and so must carry notebooks, tapes, etc, by walking bent over, carrying everything on his back). The senate then resolved that it would also be represented by the Chapter's representative at the opening of proceedings, and issued the following statement on the Case of the United States of America v. Sami al-Arian, et al:
spacer The United States of America is and must be a nation of laws, and the legal process must be serious, rational and equitable. So we are dismayed by the treatment of the defendant during his incarceration. spacer A denial of due process to anyone is a threat to us all. And so for the sake of the rule of law and the protection of American rights and liberties, we call for a full and fair trial of the case of Sami al-Arian, even if that entails moving the trial to a different state. spacer
On May 16, at the behest of the UFF Senate, the state office of the UFF issued a press release on the upcoming trial.

The Continuing Crusade

Meanwhile, David Horowitz has launched a new website, Discover The Network: A Guide to the Political Left, which is designed to identify "the individuals and organizations that make up the left and also the institutions that fund and sustain it...," largely on campuses. Backed by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the website includes a small library of alleged leftists, a submissions page for reporting leftist activity, and a moderately dysfunctional search engine, which reports 543 entries on "al-arian" (as opposed to google's "about 47,400," of which this site is number one).

  • There is a page on Al-Arian himself, with links to various "resources" (all right of wing), largely opinion pieces. There is also a page on Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar.
  • There is a page on Roy Weatherford, which incorrectly claims that Weatherford filed the grievance (presumably this refers to the grievance filed Jan. 6, 2003). It also says that Al-Arian was suspended (presumably this refers to the September 27, 2001 suspension) because of suspicions Al-Arian was supporting the PIJ, which, ahem, is not among the reasons given for either placing him on involuntary leave or in the initial recommendation to dismiss.
  • The search engine crashes when "united faculty of florida" is entered. The significance of this is unclear, although the the engine blames MicroSoft.
Coverage is rather spotty, and as the site itself says, "DiscoverTheNetwork is a work-in-progress, and the list currently focuses on national security issues." As of February 20, there are 800 people on its list of security risks, which ranges from major unpleasant Middle Eastern players like Muqtada al-Sadr, George Habash, and Fathi Shikaki, to major left-wing or anti-imperial intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and Gore Vidal, to leading Democrats like Senator John Kerry (and his wife Teresa), Senator Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ("America's foremost leftist", a title that would surprise many real leftists), and Reverend Jesse Jackson, to usual suspects like Father Daniel Berrigan, Angela Davis, and Jane Seymour Fonda (of course), to people Mr. Horowitz evidently just doesn't like, like Roger Ebert, Patricia Hearst, and Erica Jong. What former President James Earl Carter, Jr., and Morris Seligman Dee are doing on the list is unclear. The list is finally glazed with Mohammed Atta, Saddam Hussein, and ... Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Al Gore, Ralph Nader, and this gentle webmaster did not make the cut.


Preparing for Trial

Preparations for a trial generate little news, even for a high-profile case like this one. There have been a few stories on Al-Arian's treatment in jail (he was initially held at Orient Road jail in Tampa, then transferred to Coleman Federal Penitentiary (usually, people are kept in a jail before trial, and sent to prison afterwards) where his access to lawyers, legal documents, and family were more restricted. On Jan. 28, 2005, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody ordered that Al-Arian be transferred back to Tampa, and according to Al-Arian Moves To Hillsborough County Jail (Lexis-Nexis access required), Tampa Tribune Jan. 29, the prosecutors claimed that the U. S. Marshalls, not the prosecutors, decide where to detain defendents bound for trial.
spacer Meanwhile, Sameeh Hammoudeh (a co-defendent) and his wife Nadia agreed to plead guilty on charges of making false statements in immigration and mortgage statements ( Al-Arian Associate Plea Bargains In Another Case (Lexis-Nexis access required), Tampa Tribune Feb. 15); the effect of this bargain on Al-Arian's trial is unclear.
spacer And now the trial is coming, and the first story on anticipating the trial was Al-Arian Trial Jurors Face Tough Endeavor (Tampa Tribune, Feb. 20), in which prosecutors anticipate that the trial of Sami Al-Arian, Ghassan Zayed Ballut, Hatim Naji Fariz, and Sameeh Hammoudeh could last a year. Getting a jury that could sit for a year may be difficult: while it is illegal to fire an employee for missing work for jury duty, it is legal to dock or stop their pay (jury duty pays $ 40 a day, and the money comes after the trial is over). And there was a lot of discussion of the difficulty in getting an impartial jury, especially considering current press coverage: John Jay College of Criminal Justice Distinguished Professor of Psychology Steven Penrod is quoted saying, "What the research suggests is people can't effectively put the pretrial information aside ... It becomes a filter through which the evidence is evaluated."


Interest continues to grow

On November 21, Google reports that this site is first of "about 47,600" on "al-arian," although it was down to first of "about 43,000" on January 21.


Trial Date

Al-Arian's trial date has been set for April 4. It had been pencilled in to start in January, but three problems materialized:

  1. The evidence consists of boxes and boxes of documents, mostly in Arabic, and only a fraction of which has been translated into English so that lawyers on both sides can read them. The Department of Justice is convinced that the papers it has translated thus far provide sufficient proof that Al-Arian was knowingly assisting terrorists in their illegal activities, and not just handling the affairs of his private school, his mosque, his religious mission, his political pressure group, his think tank... Al-Arian's attorney's object that just playing the intercepted audio tapes would take years, and they need more time to go through, well, everything.
  2. The government initially indicted eight people, and it continues to indict people (including Al-Arian's brother-in-law, whom the government deported and now wants returned). Exactly how many people will be on the dock with Al-Arian is uncertain, and Al-Arian's attorneys want to know.
  3. During the fall, Al-Arian was the major issue in the Florida Democratic primary for the US Senate because the leading candidate, former USF President Betty Castor, had overseen the first public squawk over Al-Arian in 1994-1996. Castor's critics complained that she had been insufficiently aggressive in dealing with Al-Arian, while Castor said that the FBI had not given her sufficient grounds for taking legal action. Castor was nominated, and during the fall campaign, Republican candidate Mel Martinez made Al-Arian his leading issue. (Martinez narrowly won the election.) Al-Arian's attorneys contended that all this poisoned the likely jury pool.
Al-Arian's attorneys asked for the trial, then pencilled in to start in January, to be pushed back six months. The Department of Justice countered by asking that the trial be pushed back only three months. U.S. Judge James Moody obliged the Department of Justice and set the trial date for April 4: for more, see Al-Arian Trial Postponed From January Until April in the Nov. 13 Tampa Tribune, or Al-Arian trial put on hold until April 4 in the Nov. 14 USF Oracle.


The First Books

Two books have just appeared.

  • Shackled Dreams: A Palestinian's Struggle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, edited by Agha K. Saeed, President of the American Muslim Alliance with a forward by William Mitchell Law Professor C. Peter Erlinder and a preface by University of Maryland Political Science Professor Charles E. Butterworth. It is advertized as a collection of original source material.
  • Conspiring Against Joseph: Reflections of a Prisoner of Conscience in a Federal Penitentiary, a collection of poems by Al-Arian, with a forward by Saeed.
Both books are being sold by a ``National Liberty Fund,'' advertized on the Free Sami Al-Arian website, and sold through Amazon.
spacer As of October 22, Amazon listed 181 titles having keyword ``Sami Al-Arian,'' with these two at the top. Among the others, only American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, by Steven Emerson seems to have Al-Arian as a major topic.


Campaign 2004

Former USF President Betty Castor won the Democratic primary, and was nominated for U. S. Senator for Florida. Her opponent is Mel Martinez, a moderate Republican whose public persona was, until recently that of a Cuban refugee naturalized in the U.S., becoming an attorney and then entering politics and ultimately becoming President Bush's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). But his primary campaign, largely against Congressman Bill McCollum (who is best known as one of the prosecutors in the impeachment trial of President Clinton), was so negative the St. Petersburg Times rescinded its endorsement of Martinez as Republican candidate and very reluctantly endorsed McCollum. Of course, Martinez won anyway.

Castor lead with the Al-Arian issue, which has since become the leading issue of the campaign. As of mid-October, Castor is running ads showing the famous 2000 Strawberry Festival photo of Bush and Al-Arian, and claimed that as Martinez was part of Bush's Florida campaign, Martinez should have done something. Meanwhile, Martinez is echoing U.S. Congressman Peter Deutsch's lament that Al-Arian was at USF while Castor was president, and she should have done more than she did. This debate has disgusted the press, which is grumping that neither Castor nor Martinez could or should have done much. Then Florida Governor Jeb Bush ran an ad supporting Martinez's mud-slinging over Castor's, the media response was:

  • The Oct. 16 St. Petersburg Times complained that Al-Arian ads overshadow race, editorializing that, ``It's past time for both Castor and Martinez to stop trying to exploit the Al-Arian case for political gain and focus on more important issues.''
  • On Oct. 16, Tampa Tribune reporter Michael Fechter started the overtly straight news story, Bush Ad Accuses Castor Of Not Acting Against `Suspected Terrorists' , with the lead: ``Gov. Jeb Bush, who took no apparent action to help the University of South Florida deal with suspected terror supporter Sami Al-Arian, now accuses U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor of failing to act on the matter when she was USF's president.''
Mr. Fechter, by the way, is the same investigative reporter who wrote the first series on Al-Arian for the Tampa Tribune in 1994.


A Few Minor Adjustments...

The old 55-count indictment has been replaced by a new, improved, 53-count indictment; see the Oct. 6 St. Petersburg Times story Al-Arian pleads not guilty in amended indictment. The entire case is on-line as Case 8:03-cr-77; go to the > docket sheet and the Superseding Indictment is Item 636, filed Sept. 21, 2004, and is a 159-page PDF file, while the original indictment is, of course Item 1, filed February 19, 2003, a 123-page PDF file, the two indictments together taking about nine megs of disk space. The old indictment is described on the page on the indictment, Feb. 20, 21, 2003. Here is what the new indictment looks like:

  • Unlike the first indictment, which is essentially two parallel chronologies generating 255 "overt acts" and an almost random selection of 55 "counts," the second indictment is more coherently organized. Again, the indictment was expanded to include Al-Najjar; interestingly, Bashir Nafi is still on the indictment, despite U.S. attempts to persuade the British government to extradite him (he is an Irish citizen).
  • The first 100 pages are devoted to the first count, of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering. Such a charge requires a racket, and so the first count contains an extensive description of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or more precisely of what the indictment calls the "Shiqaqi faction" of the PIJ. There is considerable description of the context, although the Intifada is treated incidentally and not as a motivation. There are some items of interest.
    • The general description consists of the first 42 paragraphs, including paragraph 36, which mentions cooperation between the PIJ, HAMAS, and Hezbollah, although it gives no specifics.
    • Paragraph 43 runs from p. 16 to p. 100, and lists 324 Overt Acts, "all in violation of Title 18," including: acts involving recruitment and schmoozing for dough; acts involving acts of violence by alleged co-conspirators, alleged co-co-conspirators, alleged co-co-co-conspirators, and people with no identified relation to the indictees; acts involving fraud, misrepresentation, or other more traditional manifestations of racketeering; numerous wire intercepts of various kinds.
      • As in the previous indictment, the Overt Acts prior to 1993 are relatively sparse (only 22 Overt Acts on 6 pages).
      • And as in the previous indictment, the Overt Acts of 1994 are increasingly contentious squabbles over money, interspersed with various acts of violence occuring in Israel, and thus largely out of U. S. jurisdiction: the 135 Overt Acts in this period covered pp 15 - 53: the average Act covered about a third of a page.
      • In January, 1995, active assistance to the PIJ became illegal; the January 22 suicide bombing that inspired Executive Order 12947 is Overt Act 137, on page 53. This was followed by a flurry of Overt Acts, including Overt Act 150, which Al-Arian and Nafi using "coded language" on Feb. 11. Most of the Overt Acts in February involved Ramadan Shallah, who was an adjunct at USF during this period; by March Shallah and Shikaki are worrying about Al-Aria and Nafi and others, and by April, Shallah and Shikaki are unhappy with HAMAS and the Palestinian Authority (Abu Nidal is offering a helping hand in Overt Act 195). Overt Acts 212 & 213 are very interesting: there is a lot of discussion about a troublesome news article about a split in the PIJ, but the indictment does not give the news source; however, the Tampa Tribune's series gets a lot of named attention. In Overt Act 227, on Oct. 20, 1995, just after Shikaki was assassinated and replaced by Shallah, Al-Arian tells the St. Petersburg Times that he had not known about Shallah's identity. Finally, Items 230 and 231, on pp 75 - 76, describe the documents found when the FBI searched Al-Arian's home and office on Nov. 20, 1995. The 96 Overt Acts in this period cover 22 pages, or perhaps four acts a page.
      • The remaining 93 Overt Acts, on the years 1996 - 2002, span 24 pages, and are more varied and yet routine, as if the structural difficulties had been resolved. The dots are further apart and there are fewer connections drawn between them.
  • The remaining counts rely on the descriptions of the 324 Overt Acts enumerated above.
    • The second count is for Conspiracy to Murder, Maim, or Injure Persons Outside of the United States.
    • The third is for Conspiracy to Provide Material Support, where in Paragraph 3(i), the indictment contends that the co-conspirators had the habit of calling eachother up after terrorist attacks to discuss the logistics and implications of the attack.
    • The fourth is for Conspiracy to Make and Receive Contributions of Funds, Goods, or Services to or for the Benefit of Specially Designated Terrorists. This is the count so dependent on what Al-Arian is alleged to have done after January, 1995.
    • The indictment collapses the next seventeen counts into a collective charge of Travel in Interstate or Foreign Commerce or Use of the Mail or Any Facility in Interstate or Foreign Commerce. The point is that they are alleged to have traveled and used the mail and other facilities in order to commit crimes.
    • The next eleven counts is collapsed into: Providing Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
    • The next eleven counts is collapsed into Money Laundering.
    • Then count 44 concerns Attempt to Procure Citizenship or Naturalization unlawfully. Count 45 is False Statement on Immigration Application.
    • Counts 46 and 53 are for Obstruction of Justice and Counts 47 -52 are all for Perjury.


Oh, Yes, the Trial

Mr. Al-Arian may have been in jail since February, 2003, but he hasn't been convicted of anything yet, a detail that seems to have escaped most commentators and politicians. And although the trial was penciled in for January, 2005, it may be delayed. There are three problems.

  • There is the old problem of the evidence, which consists of a vast array of documents and transcripts, almost all of them in Arabic. As Al-Arian was ran a religious mission (as part of a mosque) and a school and was involved in many political organizations, there is a lot of processing to do. The evidence mentioned in the documents was cherry-picked and hastily translated. Al-Arian's defense team claims that it needs time to translate and organize enough of the material to explain it to a jury, a project that if done completely could take years.
  • The Federal government is filling the air with indictments. The government even indicted Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, saying that they want him returned to the U.S.A. (Al-Najjar was deported in 2002). Exactly how many co-defendents Al-Arian's lawyers will be dealing with is unclear; on Sept. 22, the St. Petersburg Times story Relative of Al-Arian Indicted quoted Al-Arian attorney Linda Moreno saying, ``We don't understand why it has taken so long for the government to get its case in order.'' Since Al-Arian's attorneys want some idea of what Al-Arian will be facing before the trial starts, starting the trial in January may be problematic.
  • And now Al-Arian's attorneys are worrying about the effect of the Castor-Martinez mud match on the jury pool. The Oct. 16 Tampa Tribune story Bush Ad Accuses Castor Of Not Acting Against `Suspected Terrorists' quoted Al-Arian's Attorney William Moffitt complaining, ``We could not anticipate that he [Al-Arian] would become the issue that he apparently has become in this campaign.''
And there are still the old problems of shredded court documents and the court's own erratic rulings.


All's Fair in Love and Politics

Betty Castor was president of USF during the first Al-Arian crisis of 1994 - 1996, when a PBS broadcast and a Tampa Tribune series led to Al-Arian's suspension, and an investigation that found only minor irregularities and no legal grounds for significant action. In response, Castor unsuspended Al-Arian in 1998, but that long after she broke USF's connections with WISE. Now Castor is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Bob Graham, and Al-Arian is becoming a campaign issue in the Democratic primary.
spacer U.S. Congressman Peter Deutsch is also in the primary, and a Bernie Friedman, identified as a "longtime donor to the Fort Lauderdale-area congressman's campaigns" (and repeatedly in articles as "a Hollywood lawyer") was reported by the June 29 Tallahassee Democrat that Friend of Deutsch forms independent political group, effective May 5: the group was called the American Democracy Project (and its web-page was down on June 29). The Democrat reported that Deutsch's deputy campaign manager Ryan Hampton left Deutsch's campaign in April to work as a "a freelance fund-raising consultant" for the organization, and that Deutsch said he had not heard of the organization. A survey of google suggests that the mission of the Project is to raise the issue of Castor's treatment of Al-Arian.
spacer On June 5, Sun-Sentinel columnist Buddy Nevins reported that Terror financing suspect could haunt Castor, describing the Project's plans to make Al-Arian an issue in the primary, although Friedman is quoted saying that the issues the Project will raise are "informing Floridians about health care, national security and the Middle East. The [al-Arian] issue relates to national security and the Middle East" (later, the June 29 Tampa Tribune reported in Political Committee Attacks Castor Over Al-Arian Case that "The committee founder was vague about its mission initially, but he has made it clear lately that its goal will be to investigate Castor's handling of the Al-Arian case when she was president of the University of South Florida." Nevins also describes Friedman and Deutsche as neighbors who meet regularly. One June 14, AP reported that Castor Questioning Group Questioning USF/Terrorism, where a Castor spokesperson described the group as "Deutsch's secretly financed front group" (being independent, the group does not have to disclose its funding sources), while Deutsch said that his campaign did not plan to raise the Al-Arian issue. Several other politicians running for election or re-election --- including President George Bush, who enjoyed Al-Arian's strong support in 2000 --- are connected with Al-Arian, and with his trial pencilled in for January, it is likely that the issue will hang around.


The AAUP is ...

On June 24, the USF Oracle reported that AAUP votes not to take further action against USF, reporting that the AAUP investigative team voted on June 12 not to take further action against USF, and quoted AAUP Associate General Secretary Jordan Kurland saying that "the university administration has shown its recognition of a significant failing by changing university procedures to require now a peer hearing prior to dismissal."
spacer Actually, this statement is inaccurate: the administration had talked about such a procedure, but despite proposals and pressure from the Faculty Senate, no such procedure has been promulgated.
spacer The statement is not on-line at the AAUP site as of June 25, and the only report then on-line is the announcement that AAUP Censures One Institution and Removes Four from Censure List; Notice that the AAUP decided to try "condemnation" again, announcing that it "condemned" Medaille College for summarily suspending and then dismissing two professors.


Trial Run

According to the Department of Justice, one of Al-Arian's co-conspirators was Awaz Damra, an Imam and director of the Islamic Center of Cleveland. Damra had been an active speaker and fundraiser in the early 1990s, when he made a taped appeal to help fight against Israel. Phone intercepts between Damra and Al-Arian suggested that they were discussing fundraising, and the prosecution said that the funds were being raise for, among other organizations, the PIJ. Since fundraising for the PIJ before 1995 is legal, that was not the issue: the issue was the truthfulness of Damra's statements on his naturalization application (the United States Guide to Naturalization (66 page .pdf file) lists as one of the issues that applicants should expect to pass muster on --- and be truthful about passing muster on --- is "persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion or social group"; membership in any organization that so persecutes or calls for persecution is explored in the naturalization process). The June 18 Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Damra found guilty: Imam lied about ties to terror groups, jury says, two of those groups being the PIJ and the "Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York," which prosecutors alleged was a precursor to Al Qaida (the judge had previously barred prosecutors from mentioning Osama bin Laden by name: see Bin Laden cannot be named in Damra trial: Judge fears mention would inflame jurors published June 15). Damra's attorneys vowed to appeal.
spacer Al-Arian was mentioned several times during the trial, and one of the charges against him is that he, too, lied on his naturalization application.


As the Courthouse Turns

While many observers (including most non-Floridians) of the Al-Arian controversy view this as a matter of terrorism, free speech, security, prejudice, and other weighty matters, a few see it as but one thread of the protracted soap opera that is the Hillsborough County Court. The June 2 - 8 Weekly Planet published (but did not post!) a story on The Strange Case of a Maverick G-Man: Is Jeffrey Del Fuoco a Whistle-Blowing Hero and Scapegoat, or a Conspiracy-Mongering Whiner? (or The Whistleblower's Riddle: Did Jeffrey Del Fuoco come close to cracking a corrupt power structure, or did he just crack up?). The story, by corruption connoisseur John Sugg, reports that in mid-May, the Justice Department dismissed a complaint by U.S. prosecutor Jeffrey Del Fuoco alleging that the corruption that pervades the county courthouse has invaded the U.S. Attorney's office, a complaint that presumably displeased Del Fuoco's boss, Tampa's U.S. Attorney Paul Perez. Several (in)famous cases are entangled in the complaint, including:

  • Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill's alleged involvement with the Four Green Fields bar in Hyde Park, and through it, with fundraising for Sinn Fein, a longstanding affiliate of the IRA.
  • Corruption probes of the Plant City Police Department and the Manatee County Sherriff's Department, the latter of which led to several prosecution of several deputies, and reports that Del Fuoco -- the man who prosecuted by the deputies -- and his family were being stalked in retaliation.
  • And somehow ... Sugg does not go into specifics ... the cases of Hillsborough County Judge Gregory Holder, accused of plagiarism in connection with an adult education credentials course, and Al-Arian.
Whether this is smoke or fire or, knowing the Hillsborough County Court, burning peat, is not clear, but the U.S. Attorney really should be careful who he goes to bed with.


Media Wars, continued

The Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced on May 3 that it was launching a new web-site to help free Sami Al-Arian.


Something is up ...

Just a flicker across the wire, but on April 20 the Associated Press reported that "Another grand jury is investigating former USF professor" while the Tampa Tribune reported that"Another Grand Jury Probes Al-Arian" (both articles are available via Lexis). The defense is disturbed and prosecutors aren't saying what gives.
spacer But then, on May 13, the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells us in Damra probe widens and Damra seeks wiretap records government wants kept secret that Imam Fawaz Damra, who leads prayers in Ohio's largest mosque, is the target of an investigation by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force. Damra was apparently more radical in the early 1990s, and there is a videotape purportedly showing him raising money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (back when doing that was legal); the videotape was seized during searches of Al-Arian's home or offices, and there is some speculation that Damra is "Unindicted Co-Conspirator Number One" in Al-Arian's indictment.


One year later

On March 22, the St. Petersburg Times ran a story Al-Arian trial may become test case: Concerns about evidence, defendant complaints and the Patriot Act are brewing into a major legal clash, on the growing legal mess. According to the article, it would take 2-1/2 years to play all the tapes, many of which the government is declaring little interest in (and the Court is ... not encouraging about assuring defense access to), the disappearance of court documents and, more recently, according the defense, the seizure and disappearance of notebooks maintained by the defendents, the Court's wariness of lending credence to the defendants' accusations about correction officer misconduct, etc. Al-Arian's attorney said: "We believe these are the civil rights cases of the 21st century ... It tells us a lot about the type of society we're going to be post-9/11." It is not clear how ready the two sides will be for a trial next January.
spacer Meanwhile, WFLA-TV 8, which is amalgamated with the Tampa Tribune, won the regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence in Spot News Coverage for its coverage of Al-Arian's early-morning arrest. The details are available from the Tribune's Archives, for the small fee of $ 1.95.


This is Florida, After All

The Mar. 10-16 issue of The Weekly Planet featured an article, Double Standard by former Planet investigative reporter John Sugg, who reports that FBI agent Kerry Myers wanted to know the source for a story on the FBI investigation of Al-Arian -- a story that Suggs hadn't published because Suggs worried about the source's credibility. Suggs goes on to discuss the relationships between U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, the Hillsborough County Courthouse (and in particular, Judge Greg Holder), and the Tampa Tribune. Central to the article is a charge of plagiarism pending against Holder, who has a reputation as a whistleblower, and Sugg connects the experts in a Feb. 22, 2004 story (Experts Doubt Judge's Account) to the Al-Arian case, leaving the impression that the Al-Arian case may be entangled in Hillsborough County's tangled and sometimes corrupt courthouse politics.



On February 20, 2004, 365 days after Al-Arian's arrest, the Oracle ran an article on the situation One year later: On the one-year anniversary of Sami Al-Arian's arrest, it would appear that the proverbial black cloud is no longer hanging over USF. USF Media Relations spokesman Michael Reich and UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford agreed that the administration and the faculty have since come to a rough agreement about, as Mr. Reich put it, "On both sides, there's a real understanding that academic freedom is at the core and that it offers certain protections." USF Board of Trustees chairman said of the trustees and the faculty, "I think we understand each other," and expressed no regrets. So things are quiet now, but how quiet they will be in February 20, 2005, after or during the trial, is another matter.


A Shredder in Court

In 1995, federal agents searched for and seized many boxes of documents from Al-Arian's office and home. Al-Arian's lawyers recently requested copies of the search warrants, to see if they were in order. On Dec. 9, the Chicago Tribune reported that Key documents in terrorism case destroyed: U.S. magistrate reveals search warrants shredded. It seems that the warrants were shredded by the court as part of a routine disposal of old documents. Linda Moreno, one of Al-Arian's attorneys, said that, "Dr. Al-Arian has a right to legally challenge the search and seizure of his home and his university office ... In order to do that he has to examine the integrity of the search warrant, its application, its affidavit and the resulting inventory ... If those documents have been destroyed, how do we know that the affidavit had sufficient probable cause?" But Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rhodes has sufficient other evidence to make its case should the court suppress the evidence collected in the 1995 searches. On Dec. 10, the local papers picked up the story:

It seems that the Tampa court was routinely shredding all magistrateís files for years, reported the Tampa Tribune on Dec. 11: Lawyers Expect Little Fallout Over Shredding. Meanwhile, U.S. Magistrate Thomas McCoun III informed lawyers that he would try to reconstruct the destroyed documents.
spacer On Thursday, McCoun's court unsealed an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Kerry Myers on more recent evidence that Al-Arian had discussed an ``impenetrable computer system'' with his brother, and suggested that Al-Arian was using his computer expertice to help the PIJ. The Tampa Tribune reported that Report Tells Of Al-Arian Talks, said that the affidavit also said that the court-ordered wiretaps began on Dec. 27, 1993.


Continuing interest

On Nov. 3, Google listed this site as first of ďabout 19,500" on Al-Arian. The third site was an interesting page maintained by the engine, providing links to articles of the sort Lexis usually misses. The USF Administrationís page was thirteenth.


New Attorneys

On Oct. 29, the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace announced that Al-Arian had hired Washington D.C. attorney William B. Moffitt and Tampa attorney Linda Moreno of Tampa.

  • The Oct. 30 USF Oracle reported that D.C. lawyer will defend Al-Arian, reminding readers of an AP estimate that Al-Arian would need $ 1.2 million to hire Moffitt.
  • The Oct. 30 St. Petersburg Times reported that Al-Arian hires private lawyer, but did not post the story on-line. The Times said that "Moffitt and his law partner Harry Asbill are known for taking on difficult and sometimes controversial cases."
  • The Oct. 31 Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Hires Defense Team, and noting that Moffitt is a member of the board of directors of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, of which Al-Arian is a former president.
Then on Nov. 4, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Al-Arian can't use prison law library: A judge allows Sami Al-Arian to have private talks with his lawyers but won't let him use the law library. Federal Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun's rationale was: "Now that counsel have entered an appearance on Mr. Al-Arian's behalf, it is their responsibility to do the necessary research and file the appropriate pleadings ... Absent further showing, the court's Order requiring that Mr. Al-Arian be granted regular access to the main library is rescinded."


Kibbitzer and Bishop Three

Ever since the March 13 affidavit by U.S. Customs Service officer David Kane was somewhat released on July 29, the press has wanted to see what wasn't released, e.g., the contents of pages 39 - 105 (not to mention deletions from previous pages). On Oct. 18, the Tampa Tribune reported that in response to motions by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, most of the rest of the affidavit was released and that Affidavit Ties In Al-Arian. The three newspapers had requested the affidavit after a "Safa Group," a subject of the affidavit, filed libel suits against the Wall Street Journal, 60 minutes, and author Rita Katz.

The affidavit, which as of this moment does not appear to be on-line, contends that the Safa Group was part of a financial network for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad --- and the story reports that the affidavit sloppily refers to the entire network as the "Safa Group." The affidavit describes many known charities, missions, political organizations and institutes, including Al-Arian's WISE and ICP, and contends that the they served to shift money overseas, where the trail runs cold. The affidavit is quoted saying that: "There appears to be no innocent explanation for the use of layers and layers of transactions between Safa Group companies and charities, other than to throw law enforcement authorities off the trail."

  • The Oct. 18 New York Times reported that Court Papers Show Charges That Group Aided Terrorists, and quoted Ms. Luque saying, ``This case is built on innuendo. It's all just post-9/11 hysteria.''
  • Neither the Oct. 18 Wall Street Journal nor the Oct. 18 Washington Post carried the story, according to their own websites and lexis-nexis.
The St. Petersburg Times finally ran their story on October 19.


Knight to Queen's Bishop Three

The Prosecution is not alone in pre-trial maneuvering. The Defense has inevitably more limited resources (especially when the Defense is conducted by a defendent --- a defendent held nearly incommunicado in solitary), but still must prepare. On Sept. 8, the U.S. District Court made public (a) a motion to dismiss the indictment and (b) prospective questions to put to jurors.

  • Asking that the indictment be dismissed, Al-Arian is reported to have written that ``The indictment represents the government's attempt to chill dissenting political speech,'' and warned that letting the prosecution proceed would ``allow the nation to become a place where one can be criminally punished for speaking out against the current administration and the state of American foreign policy.'' Al-Arian also contended that the indictment lists acts that were not illegal at the time they were alleged to have been committed (the U.S. Constitution forbids laws that make actions illegal prior to the enactment of said laws). Tampa U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Steve Cole responded, saying, ``Any response we have will be through the court.''
  • Al-Arian's questions to jurors reportedly sweep from religious affiliation, views of free speech, and positions on Mideastern conflicts.
The Sept. 9 St. Petersburg Times reported that Toss out terrorism charges, Al-Arian asks federal judge, while the Sept. 9 Tampa Tribune reported that ``Al-Arian: Case Has Pro-Israel Bias.''


Knight to King's Bishop Three

One of the most important components of the legal maneuvering before a trial is the systematic release of evidence to the press by the Prosecution. On July 29, the US Customs Service filed an affidavit describing some of the documents seized from Al-Arian's house, including a broadly-described Charter for a ``Center for Studies, Intelligence and Information.'' These operations were allegedly backed by the Saudi-backed International Institute for Islamic Thought, which has been accused of supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad via Al-Arian's Islamic Committee for Palestine. A copy of the affidavit, with many deletions ``redacted,'' is available on-line from Tampa Bay On-line.


The Right to Counsel

Shortly after being arrested, Al-Arian went on a low-calorie liquid fast to protest his treatment. Later, the attorney he chose was dismissed by the court when they could not persuade the court that Al-Arian could pay projected legal fees: the court then appointed two attorneys over Al-Arian's objections. On July 14, amidst a flurry of reports that Al-Arian was attempting to dismiss his court-appointed attorneys in favor of a Washington (DC) attorney, the USF Oracle reported that Al-Arian ends 140-day hunger strike: According to an e-mail from the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, Al-Arian ended his hunger strike to be in in ''full capacity" for self representation.
spacer On July 25, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun III changed his mind and permitted Al-Arian to dismiss the two lawyers McCoun had appointed for Al-Arian, and permitted Al-Arian to represent himself.

  • The July 26 St. Petersburg Times reported that Fired USF professor to act as own lawyer, and that McCoun warned Al-Arian that he may not be presented with the secret evidence against him, and that the conditions of his imprisonment may not be changed just because he is representing himself.
  • The July 26 Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Forgoes Lawyers, and that Al-Arian was trying to hire his own lawyers, and that the now-dismissed court-appointed attorneys were relieved to be off the case.


The AAUP is ... Unhappy with USF

On June 14, the 89th annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors took up the case of USF and Al-Arian. The AAUP's general views on academic freedom and due process are presented in:

The AAUP's Committee A investigates possible violations of academic freedom, and in Spring, 2002, sent an investigative team to USF to study the situation. The May/June issue of Academe, the AAUP's flagship journal, published the investigative team's University of South Florida Report, reviewing the situation in detail.
  • Committee A presented its recommendations on the University Of South Florida, in which it contended that Al-Arian's academic freedom and due process rights had been violated by the USF Administration, but that because of extenuating circumstances, and the fact that this issue will be going on for years, there was ``... no reasonable remedial action that it can request the administration to take at this time despite the harms suffered by the professor. Because of these unique circumstances, the committee makes no recommendation to the Eighty-ninth Annual Meeting regarding the University of South Florida.''
  • The delegates then approved a Resolution Condemning the Administration of the University of South Florida, which concluded, ``Be it resolved that the Eighty-ninth Annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors condemns the administration of the University of South Florida for its grave departures from association-supported standards that resulted in serious professional injury to the professor.''
The AAUP then posted a press release on how AAUP Condemns Actions of University of South Florida Administration in Al-Arian Case, which reported that the meeting had moved that: ``Noting the severe violations of academic freedom and due process at the University of South Florida, the plenary session of the annual meeting refers this issue back to Committee A for reconsideration.''
  • The June 15 St. Petersburg Times reported that USF rebuke falls short of censure: Higher education group sends a "strong message" as it condemns the university over Sami Al-Arian, reporting that USF may be the first university to be "condemned" by the AAUP, and reporting that absent a Committee A recommendation to censure, the AAUP was barred from censuring USF. The Times reported that the debate was protracted and heated, and the print (but not on-line) version of the article included Genshaft's response that ``I cannot fathom how the AAUP can look at the same set of facts we looked at and come to the conclusion to condemn us for terminating Dr. Al-Arian,'' later stating, ``USF has found that Dr. Al-Arian has used his university position to support terrorism.''
  • The June 15 Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Firing Blasted By AAUP, and quoted AAUP General Secretary Jordan Kurland saying, ``I don't think there was any expressed sentiment for just dropping it or to just issue a mild reprimand ... I think ... condemning would not help USF's reputation in certain academic circles.'' The Tribune also reported USF/UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford's response to Genshaft's statement: ``If she understood and disagreed, that would be one thing ... But the fact that she doesn't understand implies she's so out of touch with her principles that she doesn't understand how professors think about things.''
  • The June 16 USF Oracle reported that USF avoids censure: In a much anticipated meeting, the AAUP decided not to censure USF for actions taken in handling the case of Sami Al-Arian, and described the AAUP as the ``widely recognized as the purveyor of academic standards in higher education.'' The Oracle also editorialized that USF wrong to downplay AAUP condemnation, claiming that the USF Administration is not taking the AAUP's position seriously enough.
USF had three representatives at the AAUP meeting, all officers of the USF Chapter of UFF: Sherman Dorn, Steve Permuth (representing the USF Faculty Senate), and Roy Weatherford. Here is Sherman Dorn's report on the meeting:

spacer Yesterday, the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors discussed the case of academic freedom at the University of South Florida. The executive council brought two proposals to the floor. One was the proposal of Committee A for "no action" on USF's case. The other proposal was a resolution to condemn USF's administration for its violations of academic freedom. The two were not in conflict, members of the council told the members and delegates at the plenary session. The consultant to Committee A who presented the proposed non-action resolution, Robert Gorman, explained that AAUP procedures require waiting for an individual to exhaust internal options before the imposition of censure. In addition, the summary statement from Committee A explained, there would be no individual remedy that AAUP could present to USF as a way to get off the list of censured administrations. For both of those reasons, Committee A recommended no action.
spacer The floor debate on this no-action motion was over an hour long, and those present quickly showed their displeasure for the recommendation. The AAUP must take action, some stated, else it be like the deafening silence of the AAUP during the 1950s. If the body approved no action, it was in essence closing the books on the case, others stated. Since the body could not alter the proposed resolution, one member proposed sending it back to Committee A. With that recommittal motion, debate focused on how to send the right message. The members voted to recommit the non-action motion to Committee A and then to approve the resolution condemning the USF administration.
spacer At no point did anyone say USF had followed the right process. At no point did anyone say that the accusations of terrorism justified the short-cuts in due process at USF. A number of AAUP member wanted to impose censure, over the advice of Committee A members.
spacer Why did Committee A members and the executive council advise against censure? One council member said censuring USF as an exception to normal AAUP procedure would undermine the AAUP's integrity. In many cases, administrations will acknowledge they violated normal due process but justify the violations as reasonable in response to extraordinary circumstances. The AAUP always replies that there is no justification for violating procedures, no "extraordinary circumstance" exception. If the AAUP itself violated its procedures based on extraordinary circumstances (what some members on the floor suggested, yesterday), then the lawyers who read AAUP papers carefully would point out the hypocrisy forever more.
spacer Three members of the USF faculty were present at the meeting yesterday: Steve Permuth, Roy Weatherford, and me. Roy is an AAUP member but spoke to none of the USF-related proposals and did not vote on any of them (I think to separate his role as UFF chapter president from Florida Conference official for AAUP). Steve was present as representative of the outgoing USF Faculty Senate President, Greg Paveza, since neither Greg Paveza, Graham Tobin, nor Liz Bird were able to come. He spoke on the non-action resolution, before the motion to recommit, and he explained that faculty views were split. He said that the rules committee was the most effective committee he had ever been on, and he gave AAUP follow-through on the case considerable credit for that effectiveness. He said that, as the representative of Greg Paveza, he had to recommend approval of the Committee A resolution (of no action).
spacer I decided not to speak on the Committee A resolution, once the sentiment on the floor became clear, and I reserved my comments for the resolution to condemn the USF administration for its violations of academic freedom. By the time the that resolution came up, it was five minutes before a recess, and I became the only AAUP member to speak on the resolution.
spacer I made three comments regarding the resolution. First, I said that the resolution was timely, since USF is up for reaccreditation in 2004. The need to seek reaccreditation from SACS might provide a salutary effect on administration-faculty relations. Second, I expressed my disappointment with the administration's response to the draft investigating committee report, the response printed in the May/June issue of Academe. The argument of the administration appeared to be inconsistent, I said. "We followed due process; we didn't need due process; and we have just installed due-process safeguards."
spacer Third, I expressed disappointment with the factual problems in the response. The claim that the administration "immediately" approved a faculty senate resolution for a pretermination procedure omitted the facts that it stonewalled such a procedure for over a year and has failed to follow through on implementation since February. The administration's other serious distortion is its claim that its actions have not harmed the academic health of the institution -- claims that fly in the face of facts such as Liz Bird's resigation in 2001, the record of disproportionately harsh discipline at USF compared to other SUS institutions, and President Genshaft's growing distance from faculty (with the nadir earlier this year when she left the theater after apologizing to faculty for the misconduct definitions). The resolution passed overwhelmingly, and I went to lunch at Union Station with Roy Weatherford and Steve Permuth to talk about what had just happened.
spacer When we came back to the plenary session a bit late, someone told us that an AAUP member had asked the plenary session to reconsider the prior motion (not sure whether it was the recommittal of the non-action resolution to the committee or the condemnation proposal), apparently with a mind to censure USF. Because there were several members absent, and probably for other reasons if I know how these bodies work, the motion to reconsider failed. If it hadn't, there could have been the interesting spectacle of AAUP censuring USF while the USF faculty present were eating lunch. spacer I am generally satisfied with the results of the annual meeting's deliberations. The AAUP repeated its condemnation of USF's administration. It did not wash its hands of the case. The membership made clear that Committee A had a continuing obligation, even if it would not recommend censure at this time. The discussion on the floor was among the most substantive I have ever heard at an academic meeting, in line with the discussion at the January 2002 emergency meeting of the USF faculty senate.


Trial Date

The 6th Amendment says that ``In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...,'' and Al-Arian, to his court-appointed attorneys' public chagrin, insisted on his right to a speedy trial. (Yes, he still has his court-appointed attorneys.) The difficulty is that Al-Arian has co-defendents, who insist on having time to prepare (as does the Department of Justice). So on June 5, U.S. District Judge James Moody scheduled to trial for January, 2005.

  • On June 5, the USF Oracle reported that Al-Arian hearing today, reporting that one of Al-Arian's attorneys, Frank Louderback, said that although Al-Arian has the legal right to be tried within 70 days under law, if he so desires, the courts violated his rights because May 1 was 70 days from Al-Arian's arrest on Feb. 20. Louderback also said that the Dept. of Justice position is that the 70-day count-down starts only after all seven co-defendents are in custody: there are four at large, including one whom Great Britain refuses to extradite.
  • On June 5, AP reported that Al-Arian Loses Bid For Speedy Trial, Case Scheduled For 2005, and that Al-Arian's attorneys would renew their efforts to get Al-Arian moved from federal prison -- where he is in solitary confinement -- and to have all the wiretapped conversations declassified.
  • The June 6 St. Petersburg Times reported that Al-Arian's trial set for early 2005: Lawyers for the former USF professor vow to fight the judge's decision, saying their client has a right to a speedy trial, and paraphrasing one of them: ``If the decision was up to them, Brown said, they would start the trial immediately.'' The attorneys also objected to an order that they get security clearance before reviewing the evidence against Al-Arian, saying that it would be an invasion of their privacy and give an advantage to the prosecution.
  • The June 6 Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Won't Go To Trial Until '05, reported that Al-Arian had filed a motion to attend the hearing, that Moody denied the motion and instead arranged for Al-Arian to participate via video, which Al-Arian refused because a co-defendent was not permitted to participate. Also, Al-Arian's attorneys report finding inaccuracies in that fraction of the transcripts that the government has given them. The remainder held by the government are classified top secret.
  • The June 9 USF Oracle reported that Al-Arian will have to wait: Sami Al-Arian's request for a speedy trial is denied. Instead, the former professor will have to wait until at least January 2005. The Oracle also reported that despite the statutory requirement that a defendent has the right to be tried within 70 days of arrest, U.S. District Judge James Moody said, ``I'm concerned that if we set a date before the time of physical possibility to review (evidence), then we'll be shortchanging ourselves. It is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation with the time limits under a speedy trial." It was the U.S. government, and Al-Arian's co-defendents, who complained about how an early trial would not allow adequate time for preparation.
The June 9 USF Oracle also editorialized that Government using unfair tactics against Al-Arian, and concluded that Al-Arian ``get his day in court, but with the deck so unevenly stacked, what is it worth?''


The AAUP Report

Last Spring, a team sent by Committee A of the American Association of University Professors visited USF to investigate USF's treatment of Al-Arian. (Committee A investigates alleged violations of academic freedom.) On May 14, Committee A released a report, stating that the team's ``findings and conclusions as of mid-February 2003 warrant publication'' of its 22-page University of South Florida Report.

  • After a brief description of USF, the report began with a brief account of the Al-Arian case history, and the AAUP's involvement. In particular, the report described the visit by the investigative team (sent by Committee A) to USF, and its observation that Al-Arian (as of April 2, 2002) that Al-Arian was on leave and unfired for three months, and the team's chair's surmise that this may be due to indecision. The report also noted that the Aug. 21, 2002 lawsuit (filed by the USF Board against Al-Arian) listed new reasons for dismissal, including a concern that the AAUP might censure USF.
  • Then drawing on the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings, a supplement to the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure (with 1970 Interpretive Comments), which was to provide ``a formulation of the `academic due process' that should be observed,'' the report notes that in Al-Arian's case, there was almost no due process before the Letter of Intent was sent on Dec. 19, 2001, and very little afterwards. The report then turned to the three issues raised in the Dec. 19 letter, and was unconvinced.
  • The report then turned to additional issues. First was the lawsuit against Al-Arian, which turns out to have comparably bizarre precedent (in Southern Illinois University in 1973). The report said that ``The failed lawsuit by the USF administration and board only underscores their disregard of academic due process already noted by the investigating committee.'' As for the new charges of Agu. 21, the team had no advance warning of them, and ``Thus the committee is not equipped to comment on the administration's potential ability to support its new charges.''
  • The report's conclusions begin with ``The University of South Florida administration acted in disregard of academic due process as called for in the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings...
  • The report ends with an Update covering Al-Arian's arrest and dismissal in mid_February, 2003. The report lists ``two basic concerns'':
    1. ``The criminal charges against him, while manifestly very serious, remain to be proven in a court of law.''
    2. ``With respect to his dismissal, its implementation before he had any opportunity to defend himself against the administration's charges is fundamentally at variance with Committee A's long-standing insistence on academic due process.''
    The update concludes with: ``The principle of `innocent until proven guilty' ought to be observed in our institutions of higher learning no less than it is on our courts.''
  • The report concludes with some comments by President Genshaft and Provost Stamps on a draft of the report. President Genshaft argues that the report should be reconsidered in the light of Al-Arian's arrest. They argue that academic freedom was not at issue, and that Al-Arian had ample opportunity to defend himself. Central to the their argument is: ``The dispute has always been clear-cut: Dr. Al-Arian has maintained he was raising monies to help orphans; the university believed he was using university resources to make orphans.'' They also say that ``There is no evidence our conduct with respect to Dr. Al-Arian has impaired our academic health,'' and concludes ``The University of South Florida respectfully requests that the draft report's findings be tabled until the university's due process is completed, which cannot realistically occur until the criminal proceedings are over.''
And here are some media reports:


Counsel for the Defense

Al-Arian's defense is likely to be very expensive, and Al-Arian's supporters have been working to raise money for the defense. As of Monday, April 7, Al-Arian had not raised sufficient funds to assure the court that he could mount a defense on his own, and U.S. Magistrate Thomas McCoun III decided, despite Al-Arian's opposition, to appoint Frank Louderback and Jeffrey Brown to represent Al-Arian at the taxpayers' expense.

On Thursday, May 1, Al-Arian dismissed Brown and Louderback, and announced that he would not waive his (constitutional) right to a speedy trial, and would move to represent himself. On May 1, AP reported that *Jailed professor wants to be own attorney, pushing for June trial. Lawyers on all sides said that these were not good ideas, but Ms Al-Arian said that the move was a result of the conditions of his detention. Both articles mentioned that if Al-Arian represents himself, then the court faces a dilemma: if the government denies Al-Arian access to classified information, then Al-Arian could claim that his right to a fair trial was compromised.


No Bail

On April 10, Federal Judge Mark Pizzo ruled that the charges were serious enough, and the evidence supporting the charges strong enough, to justify holding Al-Arian and one of his co-defendents without bail. The other two co-defendents may put up bail.

  • On April 11, AP reported that *Federal judge denies bond to professor in Florida terrorism case, and quoted Pizzo writing of the difference between the defense portrayal of Al-Arian as a civil activist and the prosecution portrayal of Al-Arian as a racketeer that, ``This dichotomy ... reveals much about their character and the tenacity of their commitment to a pattern of deception toward achieving the PIJ's goals.''
  • The April 11 USF Oracle reported that Al-Arian to remain in prison, and reported that one of Al-Arian's new court-appointed attorneys, Jeffrey Brown, told AP that, ``It's interesting that the U.S. citizens (Ballut and Fariz) got some sort of relief conditions, and those here legally, but not citizens, (Al-Arian and Hammoudeh) were ordered to be detained.''
  • The April 11 St. Petersburg Times reported that Judge denies bail to Al-Arian: The ruling casts him as dangerous but does grant bail to two other defendants charged with connections to terrorism. Pizzo is quoted saying of Al-Arian and the other defendent denied bail, ``These two, based on the government's strong presentation, repeatedly assisted, promoted, or managed the PIJ, an organization which indiscriminately murders to achieve its goals ... And both did this for years, regardless of the risks, risks apparent to all.''
  • The April 11 Tampa Tribune reported that Al-Arian Won't Be Set Free On Bail, and quoted Pizzo saying of Al-Arian and the other defendent denied bail: ``Each, irrespective of the attractive life he has made in the United States, is willing to risk all for the PIJ's vision of Palestine.''
On April 15, google listed ``about 16,200'' hits for ``al-arian,'' of which this site was fourth, after the 1/19/2002 Salon article (which google says has 50 pages linking to it), the 3/10/2003 Weekly Standard article (which google says has 9 pages linking to it), and the official USF site (which google has has 26 pages linking to it); google said that there were 40 pages linking to this site, including internal links within this site.


Whatever happened to ... ?

As the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approached, so did the tenth anniversary of Al-Arian's appearance in Bill O'Reilly's No-Spin Zone. On 6 September 2011, Bradenton Tribune columnist Wade Tatangelo wrote a column on 9/11 10 years later: USF campus rocked by 9/11 and Al-Arian describing his personal experiences as a reporter for the Weekly Oracle -- and freelancer for the Weekly Planet -- during those days.

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