After years of denial, Sami Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a charge of “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds to or for the benefit of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist” organization. He agreed to accept deportation. In his 2002 defense of Al-Arian, Eric Boehlert wrote: “The al-Arian story reveals what happens when journalists, abandoning their role as unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against suspicious foreigners who in a time of war don’t have the power of the press or public sympathy to fight back.” Reality is just the opposite. The al-Arian story reveals what happens when Leftist journalists and academics, abandoning any pretense to being unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against patriotic Americans who in a time of war try to defend our country from those whose politics make them the darlings of the Leftist media and academic establishment.
Even all these years later, Josh Gerstein of Politico indulges in some of the same relentlessly biased reporting: “After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Al-Arian was involved in a highly-publicized, confrontational interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who accused the professor of making anti-Israel statements and again raised questions about his think tank’s alleged ties to terror. Al-Arian received death threats after the on-air exchange and was suspended from the university.” This portrays al-Arian — even so many years after he pleaded guilty to being part of Palestinian Islamic Jihad — as the victim: the poor lamb received death threats (although Gerstein has never deigned to notice the huge numbers of death threats that counter-jihadists receive). And Gerstein says that O’Reilly accused al-Arian of making anti-Israel statements while declining to inform his hapless readers that al-Arian is on tape shrieking, “Death to America, death to Israel, jihad, jihad, jihad!”
“Feds drop Sami Al-Arian prosecution,” by Josh Gerstein, Politico, June 27, 2014:
The Justice Department has dropped a long-stalled second criminal prosecution of a former college professor who pleaded guilty to aiding a terrorist group following a high-profile trial in Florida that ended with a muddled verdict almost a decade ago.
Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., filed a motion Friday seeking to dismiss a criminal contempt indictment brought in 2008 against former University of South Florida mechanical engineering professor Sami Al-Arian, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents.
In the new filing, prosecutors said they decided to give up on the contempt case after delays precipitated by U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema sitting for years on a critical motion in the case without ruling one way or another.
“In light of the passage of time without resolution, the United States has decided that the best available course of action is to move to dismiss the indictment so that action can be taken to remove the defendant from the United States,” prosecutor Gordon Kromberg wrote.
In a statement released through Al-Arian’s attorney, the 56-year-old former professor’s family hailed the dismissal of the charges.
“We are glad that the government has finally decided to drop the charges against Sami Al-Arian. It has been a long and difficult 11 years for our family in what has ultimately been shown to be a political case. We are relieved that this ordeal finally appears to be at an end,” the family members said. “We hope that today’s events bring to a conclusion the government’s pursuit of Dr. Al-Arian and that he can finally be able to resume his life with his family in freedom.”
During the 1990s, Al-Arian came under suspicion in Florida over possible ties between a think tank he headed and figures in Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In a response to a Tampa Tribune series examining the issue, he denied any connection. After Jewish groups pressed for his removal at USF, professors’ groups complained that his academic freedom was being infringed.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Al-Arian was involved in a highly-publicized, confrontational interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who accused the professor of making anti-Israel statements and again raised questions about his think tank’s alleged ties to terror. Al-Arian received death threats after the on-air exchange and was suspended from the university.
In 2003, Al-Arian was indicted in Tampa on a wide array of charges, including racketeering, material support for terrorism and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors accused him of being the American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and said they had been able to bring the case only because legal changes in the Patriot Act allowed them to share intelligence information with criminal investigators.
His trial (and that of three co-defendants) was repeatedly delayed. It took place over a six-month period in 2005 and ended in acquittals on eight counts and a hung jury on nine other counts.
After prosecutors threatened a re-trial, the former professor pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding a designated terrorist group and was sentenced to 57 months in prison. He had already served most of that time in custody awaiting trial and thereafter. The plea deal also called for him to be deported from the U.S.
However, before Al-Arian was deported, federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., served him with a subpoena calling him before a grand jury to testify about Muslim groups in Virginia and their alleged ties to terrorism. Al-Arian said the subpoena was at odds with his plea deal in the Florida case, but prosecutors and the courts did not agree. He spent most of 2007 in jail on a civil contempt citation.