[Marxism] Moslem grad student cleared of web terrorism charges

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 11 07:16:41 MDT 2004


Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, June 11, 2004

Graduate Student Is Acquitted on Charges That He Fostered Terrorism by 
Running Web Sites
By BROCK READ

A graduate student at the University of Idaho was acquitted on Thursday 
of federal charges that he had fostered terrorism by running Web sites 
devoted to Islamic causes.

The most serious and closely watched charges against Sami Omar 
Al-Hussayen, a computer-science student from Saudi Arabia, stemmed from 
a controversial provision of the USA Patriot Act that makes it illegal 
to provide advice and assistance to terrorist groups.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office in Boise, Idaho, used the 
provision to argue that Mr. Al-Hussayen, who managed a pair of Web sites 
that allegedly featured links to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, 
had knowingly helped recruit and finance terrorists.

The prosecutors also argued that Mr. Al-Hussayen had offered financial 
support to a group called the Islamic Assembly of North America, and 
that he had turned its Web site into a network that promoted terrorism 
in Chechnya and the Middle East.

But the defendant's lawyers said that he had done little to determine 
the sites' content, and that the sites are protected under the First 
Amendment.

The Web sites were not kept on university servers, and most of the 
evidence presented at the trial came from Mr. Al-Hussayen's home computer.

After seven days of deliberation, a jury found Mr. Al-Hussayen not 
guilty on three counts of terrorism and on three additional charges of 
making a false statement and committing visa fraud. Jurors were unable 
to reach decisions on eight other false-statement and visa-fraud 
charges, and Judge Edward J. Lodge of the U.S. District Court in Boise 
declared mistrials on those counts.

Prosecutors have not decided whether they will retry Mr. Al-Hussayen on 
the charges that deadlocked the jury, but they expect to reach a 
decision "within a week or so," according to Jean McNeil, a spokeswoman 
for Thomas E. Moss, the U.S. attorney for Idaho.

Until then, Mr. Al-Hussayen -- who has been in jail since his arrest in 
February 2003 -- will remain in custody because he still faces 
deportation for unspecified visa violations. Had he been convicted on 
the terrorism charges, he could have been imprisoned for 15 years on 
each count. Neither he nor his lawyers could be reached for comment on 
Thursday.

In a written statement, Mr. Moss said he was "naturally disappointed" by 
the results of the trial. "We accept the outcome," he said, "and we 
respect and appreciate Judge Lodge, the members of the jury, and the 
laws of our society."

Elizabeth Brandt, a professor of law at the university, said the verdict 
was "a vindication of the judicial system" and a victory for Mr. 
Al-Hussayen. "I think 12 jurors understood what was going on," she said, 
"that the government brought its full power down on one little guy who 
was active in his faith and put together charitable Web sites."

But Ms. Brandt said the case may already have damaged foreign students' 
confidence in due process and their willingness to study in the United 
States. "Anybody who thinks international students aren't scared by 
cases like Al-Hussayen's is kidding themselves," she said.


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