Today’s Al-Arian update features Sami finally getting the chance to savor the fruit of his labors up close. (Not, of course, that he had anything to do with this sort of thing. He was just raising money for schools and orphanages, you know, and that “Death to America! Death to Israel!” business was just fiery rhetoric. He’s a fiery soul, all right.) From AP, with thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist:
TAMPA, Fla. — Kesari Ruza said that at first she didn’t know exactly what happened to the bus that day in 1995, but it was immediately clear that something terrible had happened to her friend, Alisa Flatow, a fellow American student who was studying in Israel.
Ruza, testifying Thursday in the federal terrorism conspiracy trial of fired university professor Sami Al-Arian, described how she, along with Flatow, of New Jersey, and another American student, boarded a bus heading for a beach resort on the Gaza Strip on April 9, 1995. Sitting next to Flatow right behind the driver, she dozed off along the way and was jolted awake by chaos.
At the Gaza settlement of Kfar Darom, a suicide bomber drove a van loaded with explosives into the bus. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the group Al-Arian is accused of supporting, later claimed responsibility.
“I remember hearing some kind of sound that woke me up,” testified Ruza, now a New York City attorney. “As soon as I woke up, Alisa’s head kind of fell toward me. … Her eyes were rolled back in her head and her hands were sort of curled in.”
The 20-year-old Flatow suffered a severe head injury and died the next day at a Jerusalem hospital. Seven other people also perished and 40 were injured.
The trial of Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida computer engineering professor, and three other defendants on charges that they raised money in America and supported the mission of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad took an emotional turn at the end of its second week with the testimony of Ruza and a tearful Stephen Flatow, who told of rushing to Israel to find his brain-dead daughter being kept alive by a respirator.
Jurors, some of whom have nodded off during mostly mundane testimony so far in the trial, intently listened to the witnesses and watched a 10-minute amateur video shot at the scene of the bus bombing. The images show gun-toting Israeli soldiers watching over a chaotic scene of wounded people on the ground outside the bus with blown-out windows. Flatow, wearing a long denim skirt and white T-shirt, is visible on the ground getting medical care.
“There was blood everywhere,” Ruza testified in a clear, steady voice. “There was blood on us, blood on our bags.”
Prosecutors are attempting to link Al-Arian and the other defendants to such attacks by the PIJ, a State Department-listed terrorist organization blamed for more than 100 deaths in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The men deny any connection to the PIJ and say they are being persecuted for their unpopular pro-Palestinian beliefs.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, Al-Arian attorney William Moffitt repeated his contention that his client had nothing to do with the bombing, directly or indirectly.
“I’ve always said it’s not Mr. Al-Arian’s fault, and nothing that happened in the courtroom today changes that,” Moffitt said.
Sure. He just raised money for them. He thought they were going to use it to open a candy store.
Prosecutors allege the men used an Islamic academic think tank, a Palestinian charity and an Islamic school founded by Al-Arian as fundraising fronts for the PIJ.
The government’s case is anchored to a decade of wiretapped telephone calls and faxes beginning in late 1993 or early 1994, as well as letters, financial records, pamphlets, photos, video tapes and other evidence seized in searches.