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    Suit against Al-Arian filed again

    By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 2, 2002

    TAMPA -- Controversial University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian is the second in command of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the most violent terrorist groups in the world, according to a lawsuit refiled Monday by former federal prosecutor John Loftus.

    The suit, based largely on Loftus' anonymous sources, also claims that Al-Arian served as a secret member of al-Qaida's advisory board and that his activities contributed in a small way to the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Loftus called Al-Arian the "highest ranking terrorist leader within the United States not yet in jail."

    "Either my sources have given me a lot of mistaken information or there is something wrong with the system that allows a known terrorist leader to walk around free," Loftus said after filing the suit.

    Al-Arian laughed at the allegations, once again calling Loftus' claims "crazy." He referred to Loftus as a "lunatic" and an "evil man." Al-Arian said that the FBI and other federal agencies have been investigating him since at least the mid 1990s. Al-Arian said he's either the most clever guy in the world to successfully run a terrorist organization under that amount of scrutiny or Loftus is the "biggest liar."

    "If you take everything he says and put some mustard and relish on it, you'd have the biggest bologna sandwich you've ever seen," Al-Arian said.

    Loftus, an author and lecturer who once investigated Nazis living in America, originally filed the lawsuit in March under the Florida Consumer Protection Act. That suit claimed Al-Arian used state-regulated businesses and organizations to solicit and launder money that he funneled to terrorist groups in Syria.

    To help gain standing in the case, Loftus purposely donated money earlier this year to many of the organizations that he claims Al-Arian set up as fronts for raising funds for terrorist groups.

    A judge, however, dismissed the case earlier this month, ruling that Loftus had failed to adequately state how he personally was injured by Al-Arian's alleged activities. In the refiled suit, Loftus is more specific about the donations he made and how he was harmed.

    The newest version repeats some of the same allegations but also many new ones including an allegation of racketeering.

    Loftus accuses Al-Arian, a computer science professor currently on paid leave, of establishing in the early 1990s the "first computerized network for secret communications between and among leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other (terrorist groups)." Loftus said the encryption system used to mask the communications still hasn't been broken by federal investigators.

    Al-Arian called Loftus' allegation "absolute nonsense."

    Loftus said for several years federal officials have had enough evidence to arrest Al-Arian. Each time they came close, he said, the State Department called them off so as not to embarrass the Saudi government, one of America's top allies in the Middle East.

    Loftus has said high-level Saudi officials, including King Fahd, knew about the illegal fundraising and money laundering and also knew that the money was going to terrorist groups that targeted and killed Jews and Arabs who supported the peace process. If federal authorities arrested Al-Arian, all of that would have become public, Loftus said.

    But since Loftus exposed the alleged "Saudi connection" four months ago, why hasn't Al-Arian been arrested?

    "You'll have to ask the people in Washington," he said.

    Among other things, the suit asks for monetary damages for Loftus and those who unwittingly donated to the groups Al-Arian ran and for those groups to forfeit all their assets.

    -- Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365 or brink@sptimes.com.

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