Affiliations omitted from INS forms questioned in Al-Arian trial

Three witnesses for the prosecution took the stand yesterday, answering questions concerning the validity of immigration papers and documents that were obtained for use as evidence in the trial of Sami Al-Arian and three co-defendants.

Prosecutors called Department of Homeland Security officer Timothy Shavers to the stand on Tuesday, where he outlined visa and citizenship applications.

The forms, government attorneys claimed, showed that the defendants were hiding their involvement in organizations that they say helped to fund the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

On one section, defendants left a blank space where they were expected to list memberships or affiliations with groups and political organizations.

However, the defense countered by demonstrating the ambiguity of some questions, leaving Shavers to say that the questions could be interpreted differently.

Later, two special agents of the FBI were called to validate the authenticity of approximately 170 documents, which were taken from Al-Arian’s USF office and the office of the World Islamic Studies Enterprise 10 years ago. WISE, which was formed by Al-Arian, is one of the organizations the government says is part of a conspiracy to fund the PIJ. A total of about 50 boxes full of documents, bills, video and audio tapes, compact discs and an Apple computer were taken.

Of the many letters that were shown before the court, two letters between Al-Arian and Mark Orr, who at the time was a professor at the International Affairs Center at USF, concerned cooperative work between WISE and USF.

As of yesterday, there wasn’t a clear motive for the prosecution’s use of the two letters, due to the fact that attorneys were still bringing documents into evidence as the court went into recess.