The Justice Department yesterday indicted a leading Palestinian professor in Florida and seven other Muslim men for alleged connections to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization.
The professor Sami Al-Arian was a leading member of the Muslim community in Florida. He made national headlines shortly after Sept. 11 when his school, the University of South Florida, put him on paid leave because of suspected ties to terrorists.
Yesterday Attorney General John Ashcroft charged that he is the North American leader of Islamic Jihad and a chief financier of the group. Islamic Jihad is designated by the State Department as an international terrorist organization.
As FBI agents lead al-Arian away in handcuffs, he told reports, "It’s all about politics."
Al-Arian’s attorney, Nicholas Matassini, said Al-Arian was a political prisoner and described the Justice Department’s indictment as a work of fiction.
The indictment claims Al-Arian and the other men provided material support to an organization that conspired to kill and maim people abroad. Each man could face life in prison if convicted.
We talked yesterday with Georgetown law professor David Cole about the case. Cole formerly represented Al-Arian’s brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar who was once jailed in the U.S. for three and a half years on secret evidence.
I also talked recently with Sami Al-Arian himself, when he spoke at the Not in Our Name rally in Central Park last October.
- David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of "Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security." He represented Sami Al-Arian’s brother-in-law.
- Sami Al-Arian, South Florida professor and Palestinian activist who was one of eight men indicted Thursday on terrorism charges by the Justice Department.