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Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin

The terrorism trial of University of South Florida Professor Sami al-Arian begins tomorrow. He is being defended by Bill Moffitt of Washington, D.C., a highly esteemed trial lawyer and former President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. (NACDL) The Government alleges al-Arian was behind the financing of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel.

Al-Arian had established an Islamic academic think tank, a school, a mosque and a charity for Palestinian children - but authorities were questioning whether the true mission of Al-Arian's work was to finance terrorist attacks in Israel.

Al-Arian and four others are accused of 53 counts of racketeering, conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists.

"Much of what people are saying about Sami Al-Arian could have been said likewise about Nelson Mandela," attorney William Moffitt said. "Now Nelson Mandela is a hero for having supported his people. Sami Al-Arian is a villain for being the voice of the Palestinian people. There aren't really a lot of voices in this country who have spoken favorably for the Palestinian people."

In the past, al-Arian was admitted to the White House where he met with Presidents Clinton and Bush.

Nearly two dozen other prominent political and government leaders from both parties - Hilary Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert among them - are reported by Al-Arian's attorneys to have had contact with him.

Nonetheless, the Government claims it can prove Al-Arian was involved with an attack from 1993.

The indictment alleges that in 1993, Al-Arian sent four wire transfers of nearly $2,000 each to the relatives of four convicted Islamic Jihad terrorists who had been convicted of the murder of three Israelis.

They point to video from the early 1990s in which a fiery Al-Arian shouts "Death to Israel" or when he shared the stage with Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The Government will have the family of one of the victims of the 1993 attack present at the trial.

Stephen Flatow, who has been subpoenaed to testify, said he wasn't told until 2003 that agents believed there was a connection between Al-Arian and the bombing that killed his daughter.

"I felt very, very good our government was finally standing up for Americans who are killed by other Americans on the other side of the world," he said. "If someone is going to provide the means to commit a crime, you are just as guilty as the person who pulled the plunger. If anything these guys are cowards."

If al-Arian's only connection to this particular attack is post-death money wires to the family of the suicide bombers, and his expression of appreciation for their crime after the fact, how does that make him a complicitor or participant in the attack itself?

Opening arguments will fill in the details of the Government's theory, so stay tuned.

< Who Are the Suicide Bombers? | Sunday Reading >
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  • Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:04 PM EST
    The trial may not really begin for some time; the defense has moved for a change of venue, and for very good reason in light of the inflammatory Mel Martinez commercials that dominated the airwaves during his run for the US Senate and the drumbeat of prejudicial coverage by the Tampa Tribune. As hard as it is to secure a change of venue, this case pretty well screams for one.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#2)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:04 PM EST
    et al - "Much of what people are saying about Sami Al-Arian could have been said likewise about Nelson Mandela," attorney William Moffitt said." Of course neither Mandela or any other South African group was trying to kill Americans. I grant you it is a small difference, but one some of us may find important.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:04 PM EST
    He's primarily guilty of giving money to the wrong crowd. If he had formed a network that infuses a lot of cash to the Hill a la AIPAC he would be sitting down with Senators right now rather than defense lawyers.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#4)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:04 PM EST
    Ernesto - Your comments follow right along the "excuse the 9/11 attackers" path. Have you ever heard one of these guys you wouldn't defend?

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    I think we can all remember how our hearts soared during Mandela's famous "Death to Israel" speech. At least Hale's attorney did not try to justify his racist rhetoric here in Illinois.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    for someone not trying to defend random bombings of pizza shops by terrorists, you sure do a credible job. I would almost guess you consider it justified. As a defense attorney, you may have to defend people you disagree with. You don't have to hop in bed with them or condone their disgusting anti-semitism, unless, of course, you agree with them. I wonder what it is in this case.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:05 PM EST
    sorry-I just read your words. Putting an obligatory "I don't defend" in front of a post basically calling deaths of people in such bombings accidental smells a lot like a defense. Worrying about me or PPJ is a good way to avoid looking to your own conscience.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#11)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    Ernesto - Have you ever heard one of these guys you wouldn't defend?
    I probably wouldn't defend any of the Cuban terrorists that the U.S. government shelters.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:07 PM EST
    This guy's GUILTY...how does Blagh know? The administration SAYS HE IS...why bother with a trial? But then again, they say that Rip Van Winkle was one too. Did any of you "Palestinians are terrorists" geniuses know that many of the Palestinians' "terror techniques" were pioneered by Jewish "freedom fighters" against Arabs and the English in British Palestine? And that many Israelis proudly claim that Jewish "freedom fighters" invented terrorism fighting the British? That Blagh's Christian-Palestinian wife's parents fled Haifa in '48 after Jewish extremists began bombing Arab busninesses? One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter...it all depends on which side of the fence you're coming from...

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#13)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:08 PM EST
    Ernesto - Given that they might be against our enemies and on our side, I believe you wouldn't support'em. DA - Parsing doesn't help. The point is that the terrorists are trying to kill civilians in Israel who are not Palestinians (in most cases). In Iraq they are killing Iraqi citziens. You either condone these activities or you do not. There is no middle ground. Blagh - Well, since you proclaim yourself an American, I would assume that you would not support terrorist activities against Americans, no matter who taught them terrorist methods.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#14)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:08 PM EST
    Given that they might be against our enemies and on our side, I believe you wouldn't support'em.
    So PPJ...do you support terrorists that blow up civilian airliners because they are "on our side"? Do you think we should give them political asylum?

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:08 PM EST
    I know Sami, and he is almost certainly innocent. If the authorities had had solid evidence against him, they would have produced it, thus far all we have seen is odd guilt-by-association stuff and newspaper clippings. Sami did raise money for Palestinian charities in the 90's. When the laws changed, he stopped. He had good reason to stop... his brother-in-law was arrested on "secret evidence" and held without trial (ultimately for three years). After this, Sami devoted most of his time and energy to getting Mazen al-Najjer's case before the public. Civil liberties became his new cause. The fact is no solid evidence has been found. Sami is guilty of raising money for Palestine back when it was legal. I think this fact frustrates federal prosecutors, thus all the ridiculous games they are playing with this case.

    Re: Tampa Professor's Terror Trial to Begin (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:09 PM EST
    This commenter is limited to four comments a day. See comment policy for chatterers.