Claim vs. Fact
Fact Sheet: The Case of Dr. Al-Arian, et alThe case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh, Hatim Fariz, and Ghassan Ballut has far-reaching implications for political rights and for the Muslim community as a whole. Unfortunately, many ordinary citizens have been intimidated from speaking out or contributing money to help defend this case as a result of the Justice Department's media hype and inflammatory rhetoric. In its indictment of these men, however, the government has resurrected old allegations that have already been debunked and added to them new sensationalized charges. The following overview, prepared by National Liberty Fund legal experts, is intended to clarify some of the government's claims against Dr. Al-Arian and his co-defendants, which are based on innuendoes, guilt-by-association, and misidentification of key individuals. Some of the many false accusations and erroneous factual allegations are addressed below. In the coming months, much of these allegations in the indictment would be refuted and exposed.
• CLAIM: The World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE) was a "racketeering enterprise" because Dr. Al-Arian was listed on the WISE bank account along with Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who several years later became the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
• FACT: The government has been making this same guilt-by-association argument for years, but to no avail. In fact, in Oct. 2000, a federal immigration judge ruled: "Although there were allegations that (WISE and a related group, the Islamic Committee for Palestine) were 'fronts' for Palestinian political causes, there is no evidence before the Court that demonstrates that either organization was a front for the PIJ. To the contrary, there is evidence in the record to support the conclusion that WISE was a reputable and scholarly research center and the ICP was highly regarded." WISE had never sent a penny outside the US. All its funds during its existence between 1990 and 1995 were spent on its publications, seminars and intelectual activities. The government cannot produce any evidence to the contrary.
• CLAIM: In Dec. 1988, Dr. Sami Al-Arian attended an ICP conference in St. Louis where "funds were solicited and raised for the PIJ" and Dr. Al-Arian "attempted to recruit one or more individuals to join the PIJ."
• FACT: Another old claim rejected by a federal judge in 2000: "The Court finds it remarkable that out of five-hundred videotapes that were seized, from which a thirteen-minute composite tape was created, not one excerpt of the composite depicted Respondent engaging in fundraising for any organization … Even if the Court found that the evidence demonstrated that the ICP raised money for the PIJ at this event, it was not illegal to do so until 1997… However, in this case, there is still no evidence that the Respondent raised funds for the PIJ or sent funds to the PIJ. In conclusion, the Court finds that the evidence does not demonstrate that Respondent engaged in fundraising for the PIJ through the ICP."
• CLAIM: The Feb. 20, 2003 indictment stated that in Nov. 2002, co-defendant Hatim Fariz had a telephone conversation with PIJ leader Abd Al-Aziz Awda, who is a specially designated terrorist, in which they "discussed a variety of issues about fund-raising and distributing money."
• FACT: The man on the phone is identified only as "Abu Ahmad." However, the government artificially substitutes the name of "Abu Ahmad," an appellation that could easily apply to thousands of men in the Gaza Strip, with that of Abd Al-Aziz Awda, who goes by the alias "Abu Ahmad." According to a sworn affidavit, the real "Abu Ahmad" with whom Mr. Fariz spoke was a Gaza school principal and the two men were discussing contributions to his school. "Abu Ahmad". In addition, the government and its chief FBI agent, admitted that Mr. Awda left the PIJ in 1997. Despite that knowledge by the US government since the late 90's, they continue to make that claim.
• CLAIM: The indictment stated that in April 1991, at a conference in Cleveland, Dr. Al-Arian was introduced by "Unindicted Co-Conspirator One" as the head of the Islamic Committee for Palestine "which was described as the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine [PIJ], in North America."
• FACT: Again, the very same allegations had been made in the past, also to no avail. In 2000, immigration Judge Kevin McHugh ruled that there was "no evidence" that any of the money raised during the Cleveland event ever went to the PIJ. Additionally, and most notably, "Unindicted Co-Conspirator One" was subsequently naturalized as a U.S. citizen during the time of all the electronic interceptions. That fact alone, according to Judge McHugh, undermined the government's claim that the fundraising that occurred was in any way connected to "terrorist activity."
• CLAIM: In April 1992, defendants possessed the wills of three Palestinian suicide bombers, along with the PIJ Manifesto and other PIJ organizational documents in the WISE office.
• FACT: It is hardly remarkable that a think tank dedicated to the study of the Middle East and focusing particularly on Palestinian issues, would possess documents related to the activities of Palestinian individuals and groups most directly involved in the conflict. The mere possession of literature does not automatically imply an endorsement of, much less participation, in such activities. Otherwise, most every library and research institute in the country might be similarly implicated in one form of "terrorism" or another. Government investigators either falsified the date or ignored the fact that part of the wills were entered in the computer (in April) 2 months after the incident (in February) and their publications overseas as part of a potential article in a journal publication.
• CLAIM: The 2003 indictment states that in June 1993, Dr. Al-Arian "caused four separate wire transfers of $2,000 each to his account at Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv, Israel."
• FACT: Dr. Al-Arian has never had a bank account at Bank Leumi or any other bank in Israel. Meanwhile, according to Bank Leumi, an individual would have to present a valid passport and appear in person in Tel Aviv before he could open such an account. Dr. Al-Arian has never been to Tel Aviv. In fact, as a stateless Palestinian, he does not even have a passport. It's indisputable that Dr. Al-Arian had not wired or sent any money outside the US since 1993, long before any designation.
• CLAIM: The indictment states that in Nov. 1992, "Unindicted Co-Conspirator Five" sent a letter referring to Dr. Al-Arian, co-defendant Bashir Nafi, Khalil Shiqaqi, "Unindicted Co-Conspirator Twelve," along with Shallah and Awda, as "part of and an extension of his group and promised to send the remainder of the money pledged previously."
• FACT: Based on its own innuendoes and guilt-by-association, the government has inadvertently implicated itself in whatever nefarious activities it is attempting to imply. "Co-Conspirator Five" is a distinguished Muslim scholar who has served as an advisor to the U.S. government and was invited by Administration officials to participate in government-funded events as late as Nov. 2002. Similarly, Dr. Khalil Shiqaqi is the director of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies (CPRS), a prominent Palestinian think tank in the West Bank city of Nablus that is partly funded by the U.S. Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy. He has been a frequent visitor to the US and recently taught as a visiting professor at Brandeis University.
• CLAIM: "This indictment is the most recent of the Department's efforts to choke off terrorist resources and financing."
• FACT: Not only has it not proven its allegations against Dr. Al-Arian, the government has never proved allegations of "terrorist financing" against Muslim charities. In the case of Benevolence International Foundation, the government was forced to drop "terrorism financing" charges against its director Enaam Arnaout in October 2002. Similarly, in the case of Ghassan Elashi, former head of the Holy Land Foundation, a federal judge ordered him released on his without bond just days after the Attorney General referred to him as a "thug." Former Global Relief Foundation chairman Rabih Haddad was never even charged with crime, and even after being forced to open his deportation hearings to the public, the government has yet to offer any evidence linking him to terrorism.
• CLAIM: Dr. Sami Al-Arian is a threat to the community.
• FACT: Dr. Al-Arian has been a lawful permanent resident since 1989 and had never been charged with a crime since arriving in the United States in 1975. Countless individuals from his local community and from around the country have attested to his character as a dedicated father, husband, college professor, and community leader. As an advocate for voter education, civic participation, and inter-faith dialogue, Dr. Al-Arian has been an active proponent of and participant in our nation's democracy. Yet the government wants us to believe Dr. Al-Arian, who has met both Presidents Clinton and Bush, attended briefings at the White House and Justice Department, and befriended many members of Congress over the years, is now a threat to the community.
• CLAIM: Defendants are "innocent until proven guilty."
• FACT: Though none has been convicted of a crime, Dr. Al-Arian and his co-defendant are subjected to atrocious conditions of confinement that are worse than those of many convicted criminals. Since April 3, 2003 they have been held in 23-hour isolation in the "special housing unit" of a maximum-security federal prison 75 miles from their attorneys and families. They are allowed only one phone call per month, during which their hands are manacled behind their back. Dr. Al-Arian, who is diabetic and has been on a hunger strike since his February 20 arrest, is continually denied medical attention. Moreover, he is repeatedly denied access to his attorney. On the few occasions Dr. Al-Arian has been allowed to meet with his attorney, he was barred from bringing paper or pens or receiving any material whatsoever, including those related to his case.
(Fact Sheet: May 2003)