FrontPage:What I Saw at al-Arian's Trial by Joe Kaufman

For the last two decades, Tampa Bay, Florida has been host to Sami al-Arian, the leader of one of the world’s most notorious terror organizations, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The city served as al-Arian’s base of operations, as he allegedly assisted in the murders of numberless innocents. Today, Tampa is the site of al-Arian’s federal trial: he faces a 53-count indictment by the U.S. government, which identifies the former professor as a leading terrorist fundraiser.

Sitting in the 13th-floor courtroom of a Tampa courthouse recently, al-Arian looked like he does in so many of the photos that have appeared in newspapers for months: he has a noticeably bald head and wears his signature wry smile. Also present were several of al-Arian’s codefendants, the alleged terrorist operatives Sameeh Hammoudeh, Ghassan Zayed Ballut and Hatem Naji Fariz; the other suspects are still at large, reportedly in Damascus, Syria.

The initial testimony was not the stuff of a gripping terrorism trial: a standard procedure recitation of fax numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and P.O. Boxes. The real action was outside the courtroom. There a group of protestors from a local church, evidently one that al-Arian had been close with, was holding court in al-Arian’s defense.

They were a vocal bunch. One wielded a sign supportive of al-Arian that read, "GIVING MONEY TO ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IS NOT AN ACT OF TERROR." An attempt by this writer to point out that the money raised by Al-Arian was actually creating more orphans and widows left Al-Arian’s cheering section unimpressed: they would not be swayed by anything so silly as reason.

FrontPage magazine.com :: What I Saw at al-Arian's Trial by Joe Kaufman


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