- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A college professor acted as a “crime boss” for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a murderous gang that operated like the Mafia, a federal prosecutor told a jury yesterday.

Although Sami Al-Arian and three co-defendants are not charged with killing anyone, they conspired to bring about attacks and are just as guilty under the law as the suicide bombers who carried them out, prosecutor Cherie Krigsman said in closing arguments.

“The men of the PIJ you got to know in this case, they didn’t strap bombs to their body,” she said. “They leave that to somebody else.”

Mr. Al-Arian, 47, and his co-defendants are accused of using Palestinian charities and educational entities as fundraising fronts for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to help bombings that killed hundreds.

The men deny that they supported violence and say they are being persecuted for views that are unpopular in the United States.

Mr. Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida computer engineering teacher who was fired after he was indicted, “was a professor by day and a terrorist by night,” Miss Krigsman said.

Prosecutors built their case around hundreds of pages of transcripts of wiretapped phone calls and faxes intercepted by the FBI from the mid-1990s to about 2003, including discussions about the direction and financing of the PIJ. The participants at times speak glowingly of the Palestinian “martyrs” who carried out suicide attacks on Israelis.

Prosecutors said Mr. Al-Arian and co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh, Ghassan Zayed Ballut and Hatem Naji Fariz used a think tank and a Palestinian charity in Tampa as fundraising fronts. The men said the money they raised went to Palestinian charities.

If convicted, each could get life in prison.

Mr. Al-Arian’s attorney, William Moffitt, rested Oct. 27 without calling any witnesses. He said prosecutors failed to prove Mr. Al-Arian did “anything but speak.”

Miss Krigsman was to complete her closing arguments today and be followed by Mr. Moffitt.

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