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Sami Al-Arian won't be allowed to use the Middle Eastern conflict or history as a defense in his trial.
By Times Staff Writer
Published May 11, 2005
TAMPA - A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday limited the ability of the defense in the trial of Sami Al-Arian to cite Middle Eastern politics and history as part of their courtroom strategy.
Al-Arian is accused of being the North American head of a Palestinian terrorist group, overseeing their finances. Judge James Moody ruled that Al-Arian and his three co-defendants cannot claim to have been "legal combatants" in any conflict. And he said the defense cannot claim his actions were justified in the context of Middle East history.
Judge Moody did say that if prosecutors introduce controversial speeches made by Al-Arian, such as one in which he was quoted as saying "Death to Israel," he can explain his motives in saying those things. But Moody limited that line of questioning, saying he can't use the history of atrocities in the Middle East to justify his comments or actions.
One of Al-Arian's attorneys, William Moffitt, claimed what his client said in speeches and rallies "were an exercise of his First Amendment rights" and must be taken in the context of his experiences in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.