Professor Accused in Terror Probe Says Government Withholding Tapes

Attorneys for a former professor accused of financing terrorism complained Wednesday that conversations between their client and high-level members of the Clinton and Bush administrations (search) have not been turned over by prosecutors despite repeated requests.

William Moffitt and Linda Moreno, defense attorneys for Sami Al-Arian (search), said there have been repeated requests to the government to produce the conversations, which were intercepted by the FBI during its decade-long investigation of the one-time University of South Florida professor.

Moreno said she believes the conversations could help clear her client's name and could be potentially embarrassing to some powerful people who spoke with Al-Arian about Palestinian rights.

The tapes are believed to contain telephone calls made between Al-Arian and high-level aides in both the Clinton and Bush administrations as Al-Arian sought the release of his brother-in-law, who was held for more than three years on secret evidence and considered a threat to national security.

"It hardly points to the type of conduct one would infer from a terrorist," Moreno said of Al-Arian's conversations with politicians and policy makers. "This was a man who was working completely within the system."

Moffitt said the conversations include ones between Al-Arian and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Bush political adviser Karl Rove (search). Conversations were also taped between Al-Arian and three journalists in Tampa, the attorneys said.

Federal prosecutors did not respond to the defense attorney's allegations. U.S. District Judge Thomas McCoun instructed them to file a motion on the matter.

Al-Arian and three other men face a 50-count federal indictment alleging they used an Islamic charity and academic think tank as a fund-raising front for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A trial is set for next January.

Al-Arian has denied that he supported terrorism and said his charity and the think tank were legitimate enterprises which promoted discussion of Palestinian rights.