Thursday, June 09, 2005

Steven Emerson on the Sami Al-Arian case: "Islamic Jihad on Trial"

Steven Emerson, with terrorism analysts Brian Hecht and Tally Aharony of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, are covering the Sami Al-Arian trial and prepared the following report for The Counterterrorism Blog:

The widely anticipated trial against former USF professor Sami Al-Arian commenced in the Middle District of Florida Courthouse Monday morning. In the most high profile, post-9/11 terrorism case in the U.S., Al-Arian and three co-defendants are charged in a 53-count indictment (Acrobat file) alleging their involvement in a Tampa-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) cell. In an attempt to secure the courthouse and deal with expected throngs of media and public attention, the U.S. Marshal Service cordoned off the perimeter of the building, placing large yellow barriers at every juncture. Heavily armed federal police monitored the entrances, creating a tense pre-trial atmosphere.

Although the defendant received abundant support over the years from diverse groups of individuals and organizations, when push came to shove, support for Sami Al-Arian at the scene appeared to be low. One local television reporter candidly revealed that the contingency of about a dozen pro-Al-Arian protesters were the same group that is present at almost every protest from environmental issues to anti-war rallies here in Tampa. Support from the Muslim community was even more underwhelming, save for a few family members and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) official, Ahmed Bedier.

Before opening statements even began, defense attorneys made an issue of the conspicuous and atypical security measures outside the court, arguing that the barriers would lead the jury to perceive the defendants as being dangerous.

The prosecution initiated its opening statements with a retelling of the January 22, 1995 Beit Lid bombing in Israel by the PIJ. Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter “Terry” Furr told the jury that, pursuant to the bombing, President Clinton designated PIJ, among others, as a terrorist organization. Describing the PIJ as “one of the most deadly terrorist organizations in the world” whose stated aim is the “annihilation of Israel,” the prosecution painted the defendants as a “group of intellectual elitists” who managed and financed the U.S. PIJ cell. Furr also told the jury that the 1994 PBS documentary “Jihad in America” (produced by Steven Emerson) was the “triggering event” that started a greater media inquiry into the affairs of Sami al-Arian and his affairs in Tampa.

Furr spent the next several hours detailing a series of immigration violations, perjury, money laundering, and an overall conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. A bombshell revealed during the opening statement involved a letter written by Al-Arian to a Kuwaiti financier praising the Beit Lid bombing as a symbol of what the PIJ could do for the Palestinian cause, soliciting funds for future attacks. Although Al-Arian admitted in recent years to having written the letter, he has maintained that he never “mailed” it. Furr told the jury that evidence will show that Al-Arian in fact had the letter hand-couriered out of the country.

In contrast to the Government’s fact-laden presentation, Al-Arian’s defense attorney Bill Moffitt made an emotional appeal to the jury about First Amendment rights and “our nation’s great heritage” of supporting and tolerating all speech, no matter how unpopular. However, Moffitt seemed to concede that Al-Arian was in fact a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for a time, citing various wiretap conversations in which Al-Arian discusses “wanting out” if the PIJ would not create a non-violent branch. When later asked about this concession by reporters, Moffitt was coy and evasive.

Day two of the trial began with the opening statements of the remaining three defendants. Strategically, the attorneys went to great lengths to distance their individual clients from both Sami Al-Arian and from the Government’s depiction of a tight-knit terrorist cell. In turn, the attorneys for Sammeh Hammoudeh, Ghassan Ballut, and Hatem Fariz attempted to characterize their clients as scholarly, family men who were very much involved in religious and legitimate charitable endeavors.

The prosecution opened its case with an exhaustive and often mind-numbing lesson on a multitude of immigration forms and regulations, before delving into the analysis of the defendants’ actual immigration forms. The Governments’ first witness, U.S. Immigration official Timothy Shavers, answered a series of questions by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Zitek relating to specific immigration violations apparent in the immigration documents introduced as Government exhibits.

The prosecution appeared to be attempting to show that Sami al-Arian and Sameeh Hammoudeh perjured themselves by not listing their affiliations with the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), and PIJ on their immigration forms. Likewise, Zitek focused on the fact that Sami al-Arian was the signatory on all the immigration forms and visa sponsorships, as the Chairman of WISE, for Sameeh Hammoudeh, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and Bashir Nafi.

Of particular note, in the process of Zitek’s questioning of Shavers, documents revealed that Bashir Nafi (PIJ founder) and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah (current Secretary General of PIJ) listed the same “foreign address” in London on their immigration forms when petitioning to work for WISE.

The judge and jury appeared frustrated and frankly tired during the Government’s direct examination of Shavers. As the jury was leaving for a break during the questioning, Judge Moody quipped, “And you were wondering how this trial could possibly last six months?” At the end of the day, the Judge urged Zitek to figure out a way to speed things up when he resumes his questioning of Shavers or “bring a supply of No-Doz” for everyone.

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Emerson, a Jew who gets it
A perspective of a moderate Muslim

At the risk of sounding anti-Semitic, I want to say this: either American Jews are completely clueless about the internal struggle inside Islam or they are so cowardly, that they are even afraid to voice their opinion. Or maybe it's a combination of both.

Every time there is a development that involves radical Islam, be it a Mayor of New York attending an Islamist parade, DOJ's officials attending an Islamist conference, or a protester being sued for having the balls to expose an Islamist-sponsored event at an amusement park, the American Jewish community is as quiet as a church mouse. It's like it is not even there.

The effect of this silence is devastating. Not for the Jewish community, not yet. That time is still to come. The silence affects the American Muslim community. Every time moderate Muslims are ignored and Islamists are legitimized (by either direct support from government representatives or silent support of the ADL), radicals gain ground. In the current PC climate, moderate Muslims have pretty much no choice but to keep their mouths shut.

Luckily for us, not everyone in the Jewish community is like that. There are some Jews that are speaking out. One of them is Steven Emerson, who has been warning the West about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism since before PanAm 103. Most of his current work is focused on exposing the radicals masquerading as the moderates – those radicals who are embraced by the DOJ and the Pentagon, by the mayor of New York Bloomberg (Rudy would never get into bed with terrorist supporters) and the Treasury Department, by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, by the Congress and the White House.

There is a war of ideas within Islam, and moderate Muslims are losing. Most of Muslim clergy and Muslim establishment are paid for by the Wahhabis. Moderate Muslims are being run out of Mosques and community centers, and in many cases are physically threatened. Moderate Muslims have no place in the media or public debate, because the place reserved for Muslims is filled by Islamic radicals, who attempt to make criticizing anything Islamic a taboo. According to the Islamists, a Muslim can do no wrong.
1. When a non-Muslim criticizes Islam or Muslims, he/she is an Islamophobe.
2. When a Muslim criticizes Islam or Muslim, he/she is not a real Muslim, therefore see #1.

This is a tactic used by "moderate" Muslims, the darlings of the government and the media. But how can you call someone who praises bin Laden, or has ties to Hamas, or calls for the elimination of Israel, or wants to replace the Constitution with the Koran a moderate? They are anything but moderates, however nobody except for a few people like Steven Emerson seems to notice that. But even when the Emersons of America appeal to the public, they are often being dismissed as alarmists and racists. Well, they are anything, but. You don't have to be a clairvoyant to predict the future when it comes to expansion of radical Islam and extinction of moderate Muslims. All you need to do is get your heads out of the sand.

Why our government is so forgiving and forgetful when it comes to individuals or organizations with known terrorist ties and anti-American views is beyond me. Why the Jewish leaders are so timid when it comes to the subject of radical Islam is incomprehensible.

I thank God every day for people like Steven Emerson, because they are the last glimmer of hope for moderate Muslims.

K.M.

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