Palestinian professor sentenced for terrorism in US
Guardian Unlimited, UK -
Tuesday May 2, 2006
Florida judge told a Palestinian computer engineer yesterday that he
must spend another 18 months in prison before being deported, in a case
that had been seen as a key test for sweeping anti-terror legislation
brought in after September 11.Sami al-Arian, a former professor at
the University of South Florida, has been jailed since February 2003,
meaning he has 18 months to serve in the four year and nine month term
he received yesterday. In sentencing, ...
... The verdict was a result of a plea
bargain. Arian was acquitted by a jury along with three others in
December last year on several more serious terrorist charges, including
conspiracy to murder.
the past, Arian, a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian who has lived in the US for
nearly 30 years, has said he was singled out for prosecution because of
his support for Palestinian rights. He denies advocating violence. His
family said that the professor agreed last month to plead guilty to
lesser charges of providing support to the Islamic Jihad in order to
get out of prison.
Arian became the target of an FBI
investigation as one of the founders of a campus thinktank and a
charity formed in the 1980s to support a Palestinian state. Although
the defence contends that Arian's involvement was restricted to
charitable activities, the judge said yesterday: "Your only connection
to widows and orphans was that you create them."
in Tampa bring to a close one of the most high-profile terror cases
brought in the wake of September 11. In 2003, his prosecution was
hailed by the then attorney general, John Ashcroft, as a prime example
of the importance of sweeping powers of surveillance and intrusion
enshrined in the patriot act.
The prosecution claimed the verdict
as a victory yesterday, saying the authorities had managed to break up
a resident terror cell. "There's no doubt in my mind he was a member of
the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad]," said US attorney Paul Perez.
the sentencing, Arian's lawyer, Linda Moreno, said the government had
failed to directly link Arian and his co-defendants to any acts of
violence. "[Federal prosecutors] essentially pulled the trigger and
shot every bullet - and they missed Dr al-Arian," she said.
"The judge made a political statement," said Arian's wife, Nahla.