Published February 25, 2003
TAMPA, Fla. – A professor charged with leading a global terror ring was denied bail Tuesday by a federal judge in Florida.
University of South Florida computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian, indicted last week for alleged ties to the terror network Palestinian Islamic Jihad, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo in Tampa on Tuesday.
Pizzo issued a continuance after Al-Arian's lawyers said they weren't prepared to make a case before the judge to have him released on bond.
Pizzo ordered Al-Arian to stay in federal custody until March 24.
Al-Arian and seven other men were slapped with a 121-page federal indictment last week charging the men with operating an international terror ring that is responsible for the deaths of 100 people in and around Israel -- including two Americans. Al-Arian is accused of being the head of the North American Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the treasurer of the international PIJ, Attorney General John Ashcroft said last week.
The PIJ is a U.S. government-designated foreign terrorist organization committed to homicide bombings and violent jihad activities, according to the Justice Department.
Outside the Tampa courthouse Tuesday, throngs of people milled about in support of Al-Arian, chanting for his release. Local police and federal marshals were also present to keep order.
"He is very strong spiritually," Al-Arian's wife, Nala, told Fox News. "He is praying to God to show the truth to people."
Al-Arian's family also addressed the media after the court ruling and read a written statement by Al-Arian that referred to Jesus Christ and quoted Patrick Henry as saying: "Give me liberty or give me death."
Al-Arian and three others -- including another instructor at USF -- were arrested Thursday on racketeering and conspiracy charges. Four other men named in the 50-count federal indictment are overseas and have not been arrested. All of them could face life terms if convicted.
"It's all about politics," the Kuwaiti-born professor told reporters as he was being led to FBI headquarters in handcuffs last week. Al-Arian has vehemently denied any connection to terrorists.
They are also charged with conspiracy to kill and maim people abroad; conspiracy to provide material support to the group; extortion; perjury; mail and wire fraud; obstruction of justice and attempt to procure citizenship or naturalization unlawfully to help terrorists.
Al-Arian was placed on forced leave and banned from campus shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his subsequent appearance on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor.
The 45-year-old professor was questioned about links to known terrorists and about tapes from the late 1980s and early 1990s in which he said "Death to Israel" in Arabic.
It was reported this week that Al-Arian also had political ties to Washington. He visited the White House under President Bush and former President Clinton and donated nearly $8,000 to members of Congress.
The indictment says that since the first Gulf War in 1991, Al-Arian allegedly used USF as a cover to bring Islamic Jihad members to the United States on the pretext of attending academic conferences. He also founded several think tanks and organizations which also led federal authorities to be suspicious of his activities.
One think-tank, the World and Islam Studies Enterprises at USF, which is now defunct, was raided by the FBI in 1995. In the early 1990s, the director of WISE was Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, the head of the international PIJ.
Federal investigators say Al-Arian's PIJ helped fundraisers across country that directly and indirectly funded homicide bombings abroad that killed 100 people. They confiscated computers and other equipment and material from Al-Arian's home that they say detailed financial payoffs to the families of those homicide bombers.
Fox News' Orlando Salinas and Liza Porteus contributed to this report.