Sami Omar Al-Hussayen in court with his lawyer
From AP (with thanks to Nicolei), an intriguing look at the Sami Omar Al-Hussayen case:
“Even if the jury finds him not guilty,” said Rand Lewis of the Martin School of International Affairs at the University of Idaho, “the Feds are going to deport him. And so they have achieved their goal, which is to show that they’ve strenuously fought terrorism within the United States. It’s a face-saving case.”
Al-Hussayen’s wife and three young sons have already returned to Riyadh rather than fight federal attempts to deport him.
His lawyers and allies claim the government has it all wrong. The 34-year-old doctoral student is a leader of the Muslim community on the University of Idaho campus, a devoted husband and father and an opponent of terrorism, they say. He may be deeply concerned about the oppression of Muslims around the world, but only as any other deeply religious Muslim man would be.
The government, however, claims that its 2 1/2 year investigation shows that Al-Hussayen is the money man and computer brains behind an Internet network that is financing and recruiting terrorists worldwide. Prosecutors claim he has gone beyond mainstream Islam and its struggle against evil to radical Islam and extreme jihad, or terrorism.
Still, Al-Hussayen appears upbeat during the long hours of testimony each day.
“I think he’s real confident in his innocence and glad to get the trial going after 14 months,” said defense attorney Scott McKay, as the first week of the anticipated six-week trial drew to a close last Thursday. Testimony resumes Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist called Al-Hussayen a money conduit for terrorism who used his computer expertise to develop or manage a score of Web sites that included information about financing and participating in terrorist activity.
“The evidence will show his dual persona — a face to the public and his private face, his private face of extreme jihad,” she said.
Lead defense attorney David Nevin maintains the public face is all Al-Hussayen has.
“He’s not an angry fundamentalist bent on murder, maiming and kidnapping,” Nevin said. “He’s respected in the community. He raised his kids as Americans. His youngest son is a U.S. citizen by virtue of being born here.”
As president of the Muslim Student Association on the Moscow campus, Al-Hussayen issued a public letter to the community in September 2001 condemning the terrorist attacks on the East Coast. He marched in a peace rally, donated blood and worked to educate locals about Islam.
Al-Hussayen’s father is the retired education minister for the Saudi government. Three of his brothers are medical doctors, with one in Canada. His two sisters are college educated, one in computer science like himself. His younger brother is attending the University.
Born and raised in Riyadh, Al-Hussayen had the opportunity to travel the world as a boy with his father, who oversees Saudi students studying in other countries.
Al-Hussayen received his undergraduate degree from King Saud University in Riyadh in the early 1990s and worked at the College of Science and Technology of King Abdul Aziz University before beginning his studies in the United States.
He got his masters degree at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where he studied from 1994 to 1996, then began his doctoral work at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1997. He transferred to the University of Idaho for its computer science program that is rapidly building an international reputation.
Throughout his academic career, Al-Hussayen maintained near-perfect, if not perfect, grades, Nevin said.
Yet at the same time, Nevin said, Al-Hussayen was a fervent Muslim who did what he could to foster religious outreach programs and support Muslims fighting oppression, especially those in Chechnya and in the Middle East.
“Sami cares deeply about what’s going on in Chechnya and Palestine,” Nevin said.
Lindquist maintains that Al-Hussayen was so concerned that he ran Web sites that supported the militant Palestinian organization Hamas and funneled money to the Islamic Assembly of North America.
“With his expertise and expert advice, he created for them the vehicle for the recruiting and funding of terrorists,” Lindquist said.
But Nevin maintained that what Al-Hussayen wanted was not more terrorism but “our prayers and our attention.
“He’s not a pacifist,” Nevin admitted. “He thinks the Chechens and Palestinians should continue to fight. But he did not want terrorism.”
Given the nature of the leadership in both places, that, Mr. Nevin, is an exceedingly fine distinction.