Sammeeh Hammoudeh denied bail in trial; next up, Al-Arian

Sammeeh Hammoudeh, who was indicted along with fellow former USF professor Sami Al-Arian last February for conspiring to fund Palestinian terrorists, was denied bail by a federal judge, The Associated Press reported.

A lawyer for Hammoudeh, who was a graduate student and Arabic instructor at the time of the arrest, argued that phone conversations thought by prosecutors to be terrorist planning were in fact normal conversations between Hammoudeh and his family, the AP report said.

Hammoudeh also claimed to have few ties to Al-Arian, saying he worked little with the former computer science professor outside an Islamic think tank and an Islamic school in Tampa where both men worked.

U.S. District Judge James Moody was not persuaded, however, and would not reverse the ruling to keep Hammoudeh in jail until his January 2005 trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter Furr showed the court bank records of a $5,000 payment to Hammoudeh from the brother of a former Palestinian Islamic Jihad head official in 1992 two months before Hammoudeh moved to Tampa. The bank record was introduced in response to Hammoudeh’s insistence that he was not linked to any other defendants in the case before arriving in Tampa.

Stephen Bernstein, attorney for Hammoudeh, said the money could be explained by Hammoudeh’s history of charitable acts toward poor Palestinians. Furr countered, though, by saying that money that was supposed to go to Palestinians would sit in Hammoudeh’s bank account for months at a time.

The next hearing in the case will be today, when attorneys for Al-Arian argue to Moody that some charges against the former tenured USF professor should be dropped.