Dec 12, 2003
The allegation against Al-Arian, a former computer science professor at the University of South Florida, was contained in documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge at the request of Al-Arian's defense team.
Among the unsealed documents was an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Kerry L.Myers requesting searches of the homes of Al-Arian and his co-defendants. The searches were conducted on Feb. 21, when they were arrested on charges they provided material support to the Islamic Jihad. The organization has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings in Israel.
The affidavit described the sought- after evidence, which included computer equipment and software. Noting that Al-Arian has a doctoral degree in computer engineering, Myers wrote that Al-Arian had a 1994 conversation with his brother discussing the creation of an ``impenetrable computer system.''
It is alleged that the brothers later discussed a computer network with stations in the United States, Europe and Turkey. They also reportedly talked about encrypted information.
The affidavit also describes a 2002 telephone conversation between Al-Arian and a co-conspirator about relaying a message to an Islamic Jihad official. The man described as a co-conspirator, Taysir Al- Khatib, allegedly told Al-Arian not to discuss the matter on the telephone, but to wait until they could communicate online.
In his order Thursday, McCoun also released copies of documents related to 1995 searches of Al-Arian's home and offices. Although the court's original copies of those documents were accidentally shredded, McCoun wrote in an order releasing the papers that he had obtained copies of many of the documents from federal law enforcement officials. The 1995 documents were first released in 1996.
Thursday's order was the first time Myers' affidavit became available for public view. The affidavit contains new details of the case against Al-Arian and his co-defendants, including:
* The court-ordered wiretaps of co-conspirators and defendants, as well as what the government refers to as terrorist cover organizations, began on Dec. 27, 1993.
* The first official confirmation that the person described in the indictment as ``unindicted co-conspirator twelve'' is Mazen Al-Najjar, Al-Arian's brother-in-law. Al-Najjar was jailed in 1997 and deported last year after a lengthy battle over secret evidence.
* An allegation that in 1994, Al-Arian and several other co- defendants, including Bashir Nafi and Abd Al Aziz Awda, represented a majority of the voting members on the 10-member Shura Council, the organization's governing body.
* In the spring of 1995, the defendants received faxes of articles ``glorifying terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of Israelis and demanding the release of PIJ terrorists being held in Palestinian prisons.
``The defendants also advised [group founder] Fathi Shiqaqi and others,'' the affidavit says, ``about how to engage in effective propaganda while avoiding the scrutiny of the United States and European law enforcement. The defendants communicated with persons in Iran and Syria about the possibility of procuring encrypted communications equipment to facilitate information sharing.''
Included in the document are new details about an informant who gave authorities information about a 1988 conference in St. Lous of the Islamic Concern Project, an organization founded by Al- Arian. The confidential source was an Arab Muslim cleric, who told authorities that Al- Arian told him that the funds raised at the event were really for Islamic Jihad, the affidavit says. The source also said under oath that Al-Arian tried to get him to join Islamic Jihad. He declined because he had heard rumors that Shiqaqi was a thief.
The affidavit summarizes the results of wiretaps, saying that from 1994 on, ``The defendants in the United States communicated with each other and other PIJ operatives about specific PIJ and HAMAS terrorist attacks shortly after they occurred, detailing who committed them, who organized them, what types of explosives were used, the total cost of the operations, and who had been arrested as the result of the terrorist act.''
Reporter Michael Fechter contributed to this story. Reporter Elaine Silvestrini can be reached at (813) 259-7837.