- TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - A federal jury on Tuesday found a former Florida professor not guilty of funding a banned Islamist group in a verdict likely to be seen as a stiff blow to the U.S. government in its attempts to prosecute terror suspects.
The jury in Tampa, Florida, took 13 days to deliver its verdict against Sami al-Arian, who along with three co-defendants was accused of raising money for Palestinian group Islamic Jihad.
The panel, delivering verdicts six months to the day after the trial started, found al-Arian not guilty of conspiracy to murder, providing material support to a terrorist group and obstruction of justice.
The other men, Sameeh Hammoudeh, Hatem Fariz and Ghassan Ballut, were also cleared of most of the charges against them.
The jury was deadlocked on several other charges and U.S. District Judge James Moody declared a mistrial on those counts.
But it reminded me of one of the most inane Washington Post editorials ever on the subject (which has oddly disappeared from their internets). Remember this started as an academic freedom issue when Fox News went after him to try to get him fired. Only later were any charges actually filed. Then the Post wrote:
The government's long-running investigation, like the university's actions, has been troubling at times. Mr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was held on secret evidence for nearly four years while the government pursued his deportation. But the indictment suggests that many people were too reflexive in their disbelief that an urbane, politically active professor -- one who had been to the White House and who regularly talked to journalists -- could be a genuine terrorist, and in their automatic assumption that he must be a victim of university railroading and FBI abuses.
No sensible person not intimately involved in the case would claim to have any idea if he were guilty or innocent. The guy was being fired from his tenured job before any charges had been filed after Falafel O'Reilly went after him. That was the issue.