9/27/2004

Al-Arian Worked With FBI Betraying Muslims

Federal prosecutors say a former professor accused of raising money for a Palestinian terrorist group was briefly an FBI informant, according to newly filed court documents.

The disclosure in the case of Sami Al-Arian comes in the government's response to defense lawyers' attempts to gain access to more evidence in the federal racketeering case against the former University of South Florida professor and three other men.

Al-Arian faces a 50-count racketeering indictment which accuses him of using a Palestinian charity and an academic think tank as a front for raising money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

"The government acknowledges that defendant Al-Arian was a source of information for a brief period of time," assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Zitek wrote in the filing. There are no other details of Al-Arian's work with the FBI in the document.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the disclosure.

Al-Arian's lawyers had asked the government to detail the dates, times, places and circumstances that Al-Arian was used as a source and any evaluations of the information he provided. The government responded it has no "duty to produce information the defendant already knows."

Linda Moreno, one of Al-Arian's defense lawyers, declined to comment Monday on the government's disclosure. She said she and Washington lawyer William Moffitt are reviewing the filing and will respond to it in court.

Defense lawyers have recently argued that the government has not turned over information that could help clear Al-Arian, including taped telephone conversations between Al-Arian and key members of Congress and top aides in both the Bush and Clinton administrations.

Al-Arian was a prominent activist on behalf of Palestinian causes for more than a decade, including several years in which the investigation of him and his brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar was public knowledge.

Al-Najjar was detained for more than three years as a threat to national security. He was eventually deported from the United States.

Al-Arian was arrested last year and faces a January 2005 trial.

In 1991, Al-Arian was among a group of Arabs living in the United States who were questioned by FBI agents about potential terrorist activities as the United States moved toward war with Iraq, The Tampa Tribune reported at the time.

Al-Arian said he told the FBI that he did not know of anyone who might be a security threat.

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