The “rumpled academic“
After an episode of curious bumbling in the Sami Al-Arian case, a judge has ruled that raising money for jihad terrorists is not constitutionally protected free speech. He also refused canny requests from the defense to stop using the word “terrorist.” From AP:
A federal judge has rejected a former professor’s claims that the government infringed on his right to free speech by prosecuting him on charges he helped raise money for terrorists.
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. refused Friday to dismiss a part of the 50-count indictment against Sami Al-Arian, who is charged with using an Islamic charity and an academic think tank as a front to raise money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Al-Arian is scheduled to go on trial in January, along with Sameeh Hammoudeh, Hatim Naji Fariz and Ghassan Zayed Ballut, on charges that they provided financial and other support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Israel.
Al-Arian’s attorneys were not immediately available for comment Monday.
They have argued he is being prosecuted for his political beliefs and for supporting an organization that is involved in legitimate political and charitable activities.
The prosecution responded that Al-Arian was a leader of a government-designated terrorist organization and was being prosecuted for facilitating acts of violence. He “assisted in funding the bloodshed in the Middle East,” prosecutors argued in court papers.
“This court agrees with the government that the indictment does not criminalize pure speech,” Moody wrote. “Instead the … indictment utilizes the speech of defendants to show the existence of the conspiracies, the defendants’ agreements to participate in them, their level of participation or role in them, and the defendants’ criminal intent.”
The defense also argued that raising money for the group should be protected by the First Amendment.
But Moody said fund-raising does not have constitutional protection. Moreover, Moody concluded, “Stopping the spread of terrorism is … a compelling governmental interest.”
Moody also rejected defense motions to strike the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” from the indictment because it could inflame jurors. The judge said the allegation of supporting a terrorist organization is an “essential element of two of the charges.”