Closing arguments to be heard in Al-Arian trial

Following a five-month trial, closing arguments in the case of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian and three other men are scheduled for today.

The closing arguments come approximately a week and a half after Al-Arian’s defense surprisingly rested its case without calling a single witness, believing it had established its case during cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Al-Arian, Ghassan Ballut, Hatim Fariz and Sameeh Hammoudeh are accused of providing support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist organization responsible for attacks against Israel and other occupied territories that also acts as a Palestinian charity. The PIJ claims responsibility for more than 100 deaths.

The jury will have to be convinced Al-Arian knowingly contributed to the violent aspects of the PIJ to convict him.

The defense has argued the defendants have only contributed to charity and the non-violent aspects of the PIJ. The prosecution, meanwhile, has argued that any money given to the PIJ aids every part of the group. The prosecution never established a direct link between the defendants and the violent activities of the organization.

The prosecution’s evidence includes phone calls, videos, correspondence and bank records it believes connect Al-Arian to the violent activities of the organization. Bank records showing Al-Arian sent money to families of PIJ members who killed Israeli soldiers, videos of him vocally supporting an “armed struggle” against Israel and a letter he wrote to a Kuwaiti legislator asking that money be sent to the families of suicide bombers so “operations such as these can continue” were also among the evidence presented by the prosecution.

The closing arguments should last about three or four days, and lawyers in the case said the jury could begin deliberating the defendants’ fate by the end of next week, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Al-Arian was arrested in February 2003 and has remained in the government’s custody since.