Here is the first of several Al-Arian updates coming today. “Attorneys say men not linked to jihad,” from AP, with thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist:
TAMPA, Fla. “” Attorneys for three terrorism defendants “” including two from the south suburbs “” told jurors Tuesday the men were never associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and had innocent explanations for comments that were wiretapped by investigators.
Federal prosecutors say Sameeh Hammoudeh, Ghassan Zayed Ballut, Hatem Naji Fariz and their co-defendant, Sami Al-Arian, a fired University of South Florida professor, worked to raise money in the United States to further the goals of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The group, listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department, is blamed for more than 100 deaths in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ballut, 43, of Tinley Park, owned a small dry-cleaning shop in Ford City Mall. He’s accused of collecting money meant for Islamic Jihad from area residents and forwarding it to Al-Arian in Florida.
Fariz lived in the south suburbs, including Bridgeview, for more than a year before moving to Florida in 2002. In addition to the terrorism charges, he also faces unrelated federal charges here alleging he collected $1.6 million in illegal food stamp reimbursements while running a small grocery store in Chicago’s Humbolt Park community.
In opening statements Tuesday, lawyers for Ballut, Fariz and Hammoudeh painted them as family men who supported the Middle East peace process and were dedicated to providing legitimate charity to the needy in Palestinian territories.
Al-Arian’s attorneys and prosecutors had presented their opening statements Monday.
Defense lawyers maintain prosecutors will be able to provide no evidence directly tying the men to the terrorist group or any criminal activity. And they said there are reasonable explanations for evidence offered by prosecutors, including the wiretapped phone calls.
That will be interesting. I don’t know what the phone calls say, but I imagine if it is something like “May Allah rip out his spine from his back and split his brains in two, and then put them both back, and then do it over and over again” defense attorneys will say it was mistranslated, or that everyone knows that when jihadists speak that way they mean “May Allah help him along the way of inner spiritual purification.”