Museum president sues Al-Arian

The pending situation involving controversial professor Sami Al-Arian compounded Wednesday when a former federal prosecutor filed a civil suit against him in state court.

John Loftus, president for St. Petersburg’s Holocaust Museum and well-known author on terrorism and intelligence, is claiming that Al-Arian conspired against the United States with the Saudi Arabian government. He also alleges Al-Arian used the guise of a charitable organization to funnel money into Saudi terrorist groups.Al-Arian said Wednesday the allegations are nonsense.

“(Loftus) needs to be put in an insane asylum,” Al-Arian said. He characterized Loftus’ claim as rehashed allegations that have already been disproved.

According to a St. Petersburg Times report, Loftus said in the suit, which was filed in state court Wednesday, that the U.S. Department of Justice has had enough evidence to charge Al-Arian, but making public Al-Arian’s money-laundering network would embarrass the Saudis, who are American allies.Loftus also was quoted in other news sources as saying that an unnamed government has taped conversations that prove Al-Arian’s guilt.

The suit compounds Al-Arian’s problems as he awaits the decision of USF President Judy Genshaft, who sent him a letter of intent to terminate late last year.

Al-Arian, a Palestinian who has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, came under fire eight years ago when allegations that a USF-based Middle Eastern think tank, which he founded, served as a front for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The FBI four years ago investigated the claim but never found sufficient evidence to charge the professor with a crime.

In October 2000, Federal Judge R. Kevin McHugh said that though Al-Arian’s think tank, World and Islam Studies Enterprise, was accused of serving as a front for PIJ and Hamas, there was no evidence that proved that allegation. Instead he characterized WISE as a “reputable and scholarly research center.”

USF’s faculty union president Roy Weatherford announced the pending suit at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

After the meeting, Weatherford said the suit will not change the union’s decision to support Al-Arian if he is fired by Genshaft. He said people sometimes mistake the union’s support for Al-Arian, making the assumption that its support stretches farther than academic freedom.

“This is an entirely personal, private issue,” Weatherford said.

“We’re not his personal support group or his political cheerleaders.”

Weatherford said even if Al-Arian loses the civil court battle, Genshaft still does not have justification for firing him.

A three-member panel from the American Association of University Professors visited USF last week and met with both Al-Arian and Genshaft. The group will gather information on campus and write a report on its findings. If the panel determines Genshaft has violated academic freedom, USF could be censured, or blacklisted, by June 2003.

Because the visit took place during USF’s spring break, the chairman for the panel, William Vanalstyne, will be at the Embassy Suites for two hours this morning to meet with professors and representatives from the student government.

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