From classroom to courtroom: The life and times of Sami Al-Arian


Sami Al-Arian gains permanent residency in the United States.


After earning a doctorate in engineering at North Carolina State University, Al-Arian becomes an assistant professor at USF.

October 1988

Al-Arian starts the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), designed to bolster support for the Palestinian plight.

Summer of 1991

Ramadan Abdullah Shallah joins Al-Arian’s Middle Eastern think tank, World and Islam Studies Enterprise.

WISE’s stated mission is to breed understanding between Islam and the West.

May 1995

Tampa Tribune reporter Michael Fechter publishes a story that links Al-Arian, his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, WISE and ICP to fund raising for terrorist groups overseas.

June 1995

USF cuts ties with WISE.

October 1995

Palestinian Islam Jihad leader, Fathi Shaqaqi, is assassinated. Shallah, who had been teaching economics at USF, surfaces in Damascus, Syria, as PIJ’s new leader.

May 1996

Lawyer Reese Smith presents his investigation on Sami Al-Arian, who is currently on paid leave, to USF President Betty Castor. He concludes that Al-Arian should not be fired, Castor follows his advice and Al-Arian returns to his duties.

May 1997

Al-Najjar is arrested and ordered deported for overstaying his visa. The government uses controversial secret evidence to detain him indefinitely. He remains detained for more than three years.

Sept. 26, 2001

Al-Arian appears on The O’Reilly Factor, where host Bill O’Reilly grills him about his various connections to known terrorists.

Sept. 28, 2001

Citing possible breaches in campus security, USF places Al-Arian on paid leave after the university receives a series of death threats.

Dec. 19, 2001

USF’s Board of Trustees votes 12-1 in a recommendation to President Judy Genshaft that she fire him. Hours later, she states her intention is to do so.

USF’s Faculty Senate votes to not support Genshaft’s decision.

Feb. 21, 2002

The government issues a news release stating that it is conducting an ongoing investigation into the actions of the professor.

June 8, 2002

The American Association of University Professors says USF will likely be censured should it fire Al-Arian.

Aug. 21, 2002

In an unexpected move, Genshaft announces she will seek a declaratory judgment at the state level delaying a decision on whether to fire Al-Arian.

Aug. 22, 2002

Al-Najjar is deported. After struggling to find a country that would accept him, he ends up in Lebanon.

Dec. 16, 2002

U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew tosses the university’s case out of federal court and says instead the situation should be worked out under USF’s collective bargaining agreement. USF does not appeal the ruling.

Jan. 24, 2003

A couple hundred students march down Fowler Avenue to support Al-Arian before his first grievance hearing with administrators and USF lawyers.

Feb. 5, 2003

Al-Najjar’s wife and three daughters are reunited in a U.S.-friendly Arab country.

Feb. 20, 2003

Al-Arian is arrested in his Temple Terrace home. The government makes a public indictment, alleging he is the North American leader of PIJ.