The Al-Arian Trial


Remember Sami Al-Arian, the University of South Florida college prof who was accused of abetting terrorists? His college originally tried to can him on the grounds that, in the words of the anti-p.c., pro-free-speech group FIRE, "negative reactions to Professor Sami Al-Arian's otherwise protected speech constituted appropriate grounds to fire him."

News from his trial:

The case against Sami Al-Arian, 47, had been seen as one of the biggest courtroom tests yet of the Patriot Act's expanded search-and-surveillance powers.

After a five-month trial and 13 days of deliberations, the jury acquitted Al-Arian of eight of the 17 counts against him, including a key charge of conspiring to maim and murder people overseas. The jurors deadlocked on the others, including charges he aided terrorists.

Whole AP version, via the Cincinnati Enquirer, here.

In 2002, Al-Arian talked with the Chronicle of Higher Education and its readers here.

FIRE has case materials about Al-Arian and the University of South Florida here.

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  1. Nick, I just forwarded y’all a St. Petersburg Times article on the case about one second before you posted. Is this some sort of harassment? 🙂

    The most fascinating part of this case is what’s still to come. Will the government retry on the deadlocked counts? Will it try to deport Al-Arian? If he somehow is freed and allowed to stay, should USF rehire him?

    As much as I distrust the government, everything I had heard made this sound like an easy case for the prosecution. I don’t know for sure what happened in the trial, but it’s telling what one of the jurors said to the Times: “Ten of us wanted to acquit them on all charges, but two wouldn’t tell us what the evidence was to convict, but wouldn’t go along with acquittal.” Speaking as someone who just served on a criminal trial panel, something must’ve been seriously wrong with the case (bad prosecution, great defense, bad evidence, innocence (which this verdict doesn’t prove, of course), etc.) for the jury to have that many members wanting to acquit.

  2. The jury also heard from the father of Alisa Flatow, a New Jersey student killed in a 1995 bus bombing carried out by the terrorist group in Gaza.

    I recall this being reported at the time. My reaction then was, “how is this admissible? how is this relevent?”

    This testimony and the videos of bombing scenes served only to appeal to the jurors’ basest emotions and the fact that it was admitted tended to make me believe that this was a show trial. The fact that the jurors seem to have seen past it does something to reinforce my fath in humanity.

    There will be plenty of Americans who will believe that this proves the systyem doesn’t work. Look for more clamoring to strengthen the Patriot Act.

  3. Isaac Bertram,

    Yes, prosecutorial abuse seems to be one of the sub-plots here (along with some suspect decisions regarding evidentiary rulings).

    I wonder what O’Reilly (O RLY?) will say now?

  4. Good jury. Bad government. T. learns from this.

  5. Any News on if Bill Oreilly’s head has exploded yet?

  6. How can they keep the guy locked up if he was tried and not convicted? (I assume they have a limited amount of time to decide whether or not to retry him, but still….)

  7. I liked the reaction over at NRO:

    “AL-ARIAN ACQUITTED [Andy McCarthy]
    UGH …”

    Apparently Mr. McCarthy is possessed of some higher power to divine the guilty from the innocent. Too bad we just don’t get rid of trials, judges and juries and just allow permanent detention based on the whim of one enlightened man like McCarthy.

    Oh wait…!

  8. “This testimony and the videos of bombing scenes served only to appeal to the jurors’ basest emotions and the fact that it was admitted tended to make me believe that this was a show trial.”

    Judges pretty much seem to have stopped barring any evidence as prejudicial in terrorism cases. Timothy McVeigh’s trial included video footage of a birthday party in of the offices at the federal building taken a week before the bombing and, as far as I can tell, it didn’t show anything of relevance to, you know, the actual plot to blow up the building.

  9. Thank you SR, that indeed gives me some perspective.

  10. Sorry, that should read “in one of the offices”.

  11. SR writes: “Timothy McVeigh’s trial included video footage …”

    Trial or sentencing phase? It would be understandable, and not unusual, to allow such in the penalty phase, in support of a request for the death penalty.

  12. “Trial or sentencing phase?”

    Going through LexisNexis news accounts of the time, I have to concede that I’ve conflated three different events. The birthday party video was show at sentencing, which is arguably legitimate. However, as part of the prosecution’s case at trial they had an employee describe how she would walk through the HUD office each morning and greet everyone by name, she would describe their personalities and family life, and then the prosecutor would display a photo of the person and ask if the witness if that person was still alive (the answer was always “No,” if you couldn’t guess). The prosecution also showed at trial a videotape of the aftermath of the bombing. Both of those seem more prejudicial than helpful in the determination of whether a particular individual committed the crime.

  13. SR, Isaac Bertram, etc.,

    I say we blame the Dutch.

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