Stopping just short of partially blaming controversial USF professor Sami Al-Arian for the Sept. 11 attacks, John Loftus used a forum Monday night intended to discuss the Holocaust to present reasons why he thinks Al-Arian is one of the “worst villains on the face of the earth.”
Loftus, president for St. Petersburg’s Florida Holocaust Museum, filed a civil lawsuit against Al-Arian last month, claiming he used Florida charities as a front for funding Middle Eastern terrorist groups.
Al-Arian said Monday night that Loftus is a liar and he “needs to be treated mentally.”
Loftus, a former federal prosecutor who says he has intelligence clearance in the U.S. government, presented about 30 minutes of video footage, which he said constituted 85 percent of the secret evidence that spawned the 1997 3 1/2-year detention of Al-Arian’s brother-in-law and former USF adjunct professor Mazen Al-Najjar. The other 15 percent: bank records that clearly link Al-Arian to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group run by another former USF adjunct professor, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, said Loftus.
But the videos were more focused on Al-Arian. Al-Arian doesn’t know what is so secret.
“All those videos came out of my house or the (World and Islam Studies Enterprise) offices,” Al-Arian said. “If this is what the government had all this time, it just shows they had nothing.”One part shows a poster on a wall at a conference attended by Al-Arian and Al-Najjar. The poster is a collage of men’s faces glued together to create a map of Israel. Loftus said the men portrayed on the map are suicide bombers.
Al-Arian said Loftus’ claim is preposterous.
“The first suicide bombing took place in April 1994. Our last conference was in Dec. 1992,” Al-Arian said. “So that’s absolute nonsense.”
Loftus showed a clip of what he calls the “who wants to give me $500 to kill a Jew?” speech, in which a Palestinian man, after taking donations meant to fund a terrorist attack, calls for all who support his cause to donate to Al-Arian’s Islamic Committee for Palestine.
Al-Arian said he was familiar with the tape, but Loftus’ translation of the speech was wrong.
“Nobody ever said, ‘Kill a Jew,'” Al-Arian said. “I was not at that conference, and it was not an ICP function.”
Loftus also showed a video that has a man introducing Al-Arian at a conference as “president for ICP, a front for the PIJ.”
Loftus pointed to the screen as he told the audience, “He’s not denying he’s the leader of a terrorist group.”
Another video shows Al-Arian speaking with the PIJ’s logo on a poster hanging in back of him.
Al-Arian said that Loftus’ evidence is all irrelevant because the PIJ was not a terrorist group at the time of the 1991 conference. Instead, he said, a “basically non-violent” uprising, or intifada, took place between 1987 and 1993, while people were still throwing rocks to protest Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Al-Arian has never been charged with a crime even though he was investigated – and continues to be investigated – by the FBI. In addition, a federal judge in 1998 said in his ruling that Al-Arian’s WISE, a now-defunct USF-affiliated think tank, and ICP were both “scholarly” and “reputable” research organizations.
So then how does Loftus intend to prove Al-Arian’s guilt? Well, he said the government’s case against him was corrupted. He said, in 1998, it replaced its “A-team” of federal prosecutors with a “B-team” of immigration lawyers who didn’t do a sufficient job in presenting evidence to Judge. R. Kevin McHugh.
The reason? That’s a bit more complex, he said. Because the PIJ kills Arabs who actively support peace negotiations with Israel, the Saudi Arabian government could not publicly support it. Therefore, it sent its money through charities to fronts in Switzerland, which in turn sent the money to Al-Arian’s ICP in Tampa. Al-Arian and Al-Najjar, he said, then would send the money in $100,000 increments back to the PIJ.
To successfully prosecute Al-Arian, Loftus said, the U.S. government would have to uncover this laundering process and would then embarrass the Saudis and jeopardize the exportation of the oil of which Americans are dependent.
Had the government thrown Al-Arian in jail, Loftus said many acts of terrorism could have been prevented, even the most notorious of them all: the attacks on America.
“(Al-Arian’s incarceration) could have prevented dozens if not hundreds of suicide bombings in the Middle East,” he said. “We might have stopped al-Qaida. We might have saved the trade towers.”
Al-Arian is connected to al-Qaida, Loftus said, because the same Saudi groups that donated money to WISE and ICP – the same groups which were raided by the FBI last month – also had connection to Mohammed Atta, the suspected leader of the Sept. 11 hijackings.
It is just now, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, that the government will allow for this kind of plot to be heard.
In fact, Loftus said, he sent a copy of his civil suit through the U.S. government for review before he filed it. And it came back with no objections, he said.
He said after he submitted it, the FBI sent two agents to Florida to question him about how he had certain intelligence in two paragraphs in his complaint.
He said he gave an explanation, and he was then congratulated for being just the 22nd person in the country to have such intelligence.
“He’s full of it. He’s a liar,” Al-Arian said. “This is just another example of a (government conspiracy) to silence Palestinians and Muslims who are active.”
Before he tackled the Al-Arian case, Loftus talked briefly about the original intent of the lecture: the Holocaust. Speaking to about 50 people in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom, he discussed briefly the “golden age of Judeo/Muslim cooperation,” in which Jews and Muslims coexisted peacefully.
But after the death of Islam’s most sacred prophet, Mohammed, who Loftus said was the world’s first great feminist, his writings, which he said were poetically ambiguous, became grossly misinterpreted. These misinterpretations eventually spawned a movement that was “anti-Jew, anti-women and anti-literacy,” and these concepts, which people now associate with Islamic Fundamentalism, he said, were rooted in the doctrine of Nazism.
A group of Muslim women came to the lecture after it started, but they left before Loftus showed his video of Al-Arian.Loftus said later he regretted that they left because he wanted them to hear Al-Arian “in his own words.”
Contact Ryan Meehan at email@example.com