December 7, 2005

Al-Arian trial end

Along with other bloggers, I'll say a few words about the end of the (first) trial of Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendants after the jump.


  • As the more rabid bloggers have noted, the prosecutors were incompetent, dragging the trial along without clearly connecting the dots for the jury.
  • The prosecutors' incompetence may have saved Judge James Moody from the embarrassment of having convictions overturned on appeal because of his decisions. If I remember correctly, he let the prosecutors introduce Alisa Flatow's death in a terrorist bombing before they had established a link from the defendants to that incident.
  • The result of this trial does not mean that Al-Arian is innocent. The American system of jurisprudence has no checkbox for innocence, only guilty or not guilty. We often interpret the latter as a sign of innocence, but that's not technically what happens. And comments that jurors made to reporters yesterday indicated that they just weren't convinced that there was a clear intentional connection between fundraising by the defendants and specific acts of terror by the Islamic Jihad. Apparently they didn't focus much on attorney Moffitt's arguments about free speech, or at least not directly.

So what of Al-Arian and USF? The result of this trial does not justify USF's firing of Al-Arian—but the trial's value as an external judgment of the actions of USF administrators is minimal, as I've written before. And several things would have to happen before Al-Arian's pending grievance is resolved: He'd have to get out of jail, not be in deportation proceedings, and decide he wants his job back. Since there are 9 charges still pending, and the reputation of the Justice Department's anti-terrorism prosecution effort is at stake, I agree with the observer (whose name I forget—I read a bunch of stories in a blur this morning) who said that the Justice Department is stuck with the case until the (likely bitter) end, and then they're stuck with attempting to deport Al-Arian. One of his codefendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh (a sometime USF grad student), was judged not guilty but had already agreed to be deported if not convicted. Listen to this article
Posted in Academic freedom on December 7, 2005 6:49 AM |