Transcript quotes Al-Arian's comments at rallies
By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- A transcript made from videotapes the FBI seized from controversial University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian's home seven years ago quote him at conferences saying "Death to Israel" and referring to Jews as "monkeys and pigs."
The transcript is an English translation of Al-Arian and several other Palestinian leaders speaking in Arabic at pro-Palestinian rallies in various U.S. cities from 1988 to 1992. The video footage depicts snippets from each conference and runs about 13 minutes, culled from about 1,500 hours of videotape evidence seized during FBI raids in 1995.
Many of the statements have been previously reported and Al-Arian has repeatedly said the interpretations of what he said were unfair and out of context. The transcript was used by the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the case against Al-Arian's brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar, who remains in federal prison because his appeals in his long-running deportation case have run out.
In the mid 1990s, FBI agents suspected that an Islamic think tank Al-Arian operated at USF was a front for Middle Eastern terrorists. A former head of the think tank, Ramadan Abdulah Shallah, left Tampa in 1995 and soon resurfaced as the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group.
Al-Arian's recent troubles began last year when the university moved to fire him for security and contractual reasons after the previous allegations of ties to terrorism were rehashed on the Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor.
And just last week, former federal prosecutor John Loftus filed a lawsuit under the Florida Consumer Protection Act that claimed Al-Arian used state-regulated organizations to solicit and launder money that he funneled to terrorist groups in Syria. In the suit, Loftus referred to the transcript and the videotape to help support his case.
Al-Arian, who has never been charged with a crime, denied the allegations and said he never laundered money.
In the videos, Al-Arian is introduced at one conference as the head of the International Committee for Palestine, an "active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement of Palestine," according to an FBI affidavit.
"We like to call it the Islamic Committee for Palestine here for security reasons," a man identified as Fawwaz Abu Damra told a crowd of supporters after introducing Al-Arian, according to the transcript.
At one conference Al-Arian called for God to have mercy on the souls of "the martyrs." At another, he was present when Damra asked: "Donate to the Islamic Jihad. Nidal Zalooum from the Islamic Jihad held a dagger and stabbed four of the Jews in the courtyard of Al-Haram Al-Qudsi."
According to the transcript, Damra later added: "One of them would leave his house with a knife to stab the Jews -- twelve Jews -- after the events of the Gulf War. Brothers, the Intifadah calls you. Five hundred dollars! Who would add to five hundred dollars?"
Al-Arian, who could not be reached for comment Monday, has said that his statements were not a call to violence against Jews. His most incendiary comments, he said, were made in Arabic, to Palestinian audiences about Palestinian issues. He said rhetoric in the Middle East is melodramatic and hyperbolic.
"Death to Israel," he said, did not mean death to the people who lived there, only to an apartheidlike system that oppresses Palestinians.
"Jihad" did not mean "holy war," he said. It meant "effort" or "struggle."
When he referred to "the sons of Israel" as "monkeys and pigs," he said, he was quoting from a passage in the Koran about those who earn the wrath of God.
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