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News :: Education
07 Dec 2005
TAMPA - A federal jury Tuesday either failed to reach a verdict or found former USF professor Sami Al-Arian not guilty of several charges related to the terrorism-support trial. The judge declared a mistrial on the charges where no verdict was reached.

Once billed as a major strike in the war on terrorism, the case against Sami Al-Arian crumbled Tuesday when jurors rejected federal charges that Al-Arian and three co-defendants operated a North American cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Tears of joy at the defense table met with blank expressions of shock among prosecutors after jurors deadlocked on nine counts against Al-Arian and found him not guilty of conspiring to commit murder abroad, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

"I think the jury were open-minded people - able to see through what the government was saying," said Ali Al-Arian, son of the former University of South Florida professor and a high school sophomore. Speaking outside the courthouse, he said, "There was no evidence at all."

Defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Ballut were acquitted on all counts. Hatim Fariz was acquitted on the counts on which jurors could reach a verdict.

The jury's decision, on the 13th day of deliberations and six months to the day after the trial started, marks a stunning defeat for federal prosecutors.

Islamic Jihad is responsible for more than 100 deaths in attacks in Israel. In February 2003, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment, hailing it as a milestone in the war against terrorism.

That created an expectation that came crashing down in Tampa federal court.

"This ranks as one of the most significant defeats for the U.S. government, for the Justice Department since 9/11," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University Law School who has represented other terrorism defendants.

"The Justice Department spent copious amounts of money and time to make the case against Al-Arian."...CONTINUED AT LINK

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