TAMPA, Fla. – Defense attorneys for a former professor suspected of terrorist ties want a federal judge to throw out virtually all the government’s evidence, saying Sami Al-Arian’s constitutional rights were violated by improper searches and inappropriate surveillance.
Attorneys William Moffitt and Linda Moreno said in separate motions filed this week that federal agents made vague allegations to justify search warrants and may have erred in targeting him for surveillance.
Al-Arian and eight other men are charged in a 53-count federal indictment alleging material support for terrorism, racketeering and money laundering. Al-Arian’s trial is scheduled to begin in April.
Prosecutors have said they helped form the leadership of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group responsible for dozens of attacks and more than 100 deaths in Israel.
Al-Arian’s defense has said the men are being punished for supporting an unpopular cause, the plight of the Palestinian people, and for lobbying against the use of secret evidence in deportation cases.
Al-Arian’s home and offices first were searched in November 1995, weeks after co-defendant Ramadan Abdullah Shallah emerged in Syria as the Jihad’s new leader. Moffitt and Moreno argue that the probable cause used to back the search warrants were based on unsubstantiated claims.
Agents, upon receiving the search warrants, used a “seize first, determine relevance later” attitude that violated the professor’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches, the attorneys wrote. Family report cards, grocery receipts and 16 copies of the same book are among the hundreds of items federal agents seized.
“This warrant authorized a search whose purpose was to punish and intimidate, prior to conviction,” they wrote. “It was clearly not a search that was limited in any way to the fruits and instrumentalities of crime.”