TAMPA – Prosecutors dealt a harsh blow to defendants in the trial of Sami Al-Arian Thursday, when the federal judge allowed into evidence stacks of Internet information on Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Previously, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody questioned whether the information, taken from the computers of defendants Ghassan Ballut and Hatem Fariz after a 2003 FBI seizure, could contribute to building a case against them and Al-Arian.
Thursday, the judge ruled it could.
Defense attorneys argued repeatedly that it was not clear where the Web sites originated or whether defendants ever read everything on them, as prosecutors allege. But Moody overruled their objections, agreeing with prosecutors that the information may show defendants’ knowledge of the terrorist activities of the PIJ.
As the afternoon wore on, a tense courtroom grew tenser when Moody stopped defense attorneys in the middle of explaining objections to tell them he’d heard enough.
At one point, after questioning how long Al-Arian could be held responsible for conspiracy relating to the acts of the PIJ – especially given that he was in solitary confinement after early 2003 – attorney Bill Moffitt told the judge: “That’s my argument, and I don’t want to beat it to death.”
Moody dryly replied: “Too late.”
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