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Al-Arian dismissal requests denied

The jury is not present as two lawyers, one for the former USF professor, make their arguments.

By MEG LAUGHLIN
Published October 26, 2005


TAMPA - A day before prosecutors finish presenting their case against Sami Al-Arian and three other defendants, the federal judge sent the jury home early Tuesday and asked defense attorneys to make their arguments for dismissing counts.

As a result, spectators got a preview of what may well be the closing arguments for and against Al-Arian, who is charged with conspiring to raise money for the terrorist acts of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

"In the United States, we punish actors not speakers," said Al-Arian's attorney Bill Moffitt, insisting that "insulting and outrageous speech" was protected under the First Amendment and that "there was not one act associating Dr. Al-Arian with the military wing (of the PIJ)."

Moffitt said that Al-Arian affiliated with the PIJ "to feed hungry people" in the occupied territories.

"He hasn't persecuted anybody. He has taken an opposite position to our government," said Moffitt.

But federal prosecutor Terry Furr said that the case wasn't about free speech or charity but about the former "USF-professor-by-day spending his nights trying to keep the PIJ alive."

Furr characterized the charitable contributions to the occupied territories this way: "Giving that money ... doesn't amount to a hill of spit. The money goes to help people die."

The prosecutor did not elaborate on how Al-Arian kept the PIJ alive, or how money raised in Tampa went for violence. But U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. said he had heard enough, and denied the motions for dismissal.

Earlier, defense attorney Stephen Bernstein told the court that evidence didn't show that his client, Sameeh Hammoudeh, was ever part of Palestinian Islamic Jihad or any agreement having to do with it.

"Not one in 80 witnesses testified about Mr. Hammoudeh's knowledge of conspiracy," said Bernstein, who asked that the conspiracy counts be dismissed. But, without hearing counter arguments from prosecutors, the judge denied Bernstein's request.

The morning was spent with prosecutors introducing evidence from a Web site called "Al-Quds Palestinian Information Site," which they say was visited by defendants Hatem Fariz and Ghassan Ballut.

Included in the 58 pages of printed information from the Web site was a rundown of 196 PIJ terrorist acts in Israel and the occupied territories between 1984 and 1999. Most of these acts matched with Web-site information given by prosecutors over a week ago.

In that information, the PIJ claimed responsibility for the deaths of over 700 people in Israel and the occupied territories, between 1984 and 2003.

Today, prosecutors will put one more witness on the stand before resting.

Meg Laughlin can be reached at 813 226-3365 or mlaughlin@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 26, 2005, 00:44:15]


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