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American Muslim

Chronology of Dr. Sami Al-Arian’s case

1975: Sami Al-Arian, a Kuwait-born Palestinian, arrives in the United States from Egypt at age 17 to study engineering at Southern Illinois University. He later earns a doctorate in engineering from North Carolina State University.

Jan. 27, 1986: Sami Al-Arian is hired by the University of South Florida College of Engineering.

Oct. 20, 1988: Al-Arian incorporates the Islamic Concern Project, an umbrella organization that includes the Islamic Committee for Palestine, a charity devoted to Palestinian causes.

Feb. 21, 1991: Al-Arian incorporates the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a think tank in Tampa devoted to Islamic thought and political theory.

Nov. 20, 1995: Federal agents search World and Islam Studies Enterprise's office and Al- Arian's home and office at USF.

May 2, 1996: USF places Al-Arian on paid leave, effective Aug. 7, pending the outcome of a federal investigation into whether he was running fronts for terrorist organizations. The university lets him return two years later, citing a staffing need and no law enforcement action.

May 19, 1997: Federal agents arrest Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar and use secret evidence to jail him as a security threat. Al-Najjar, who had been fighting a deportation order, worked with Al-Arian at the Islamic Committee for Palestine and the World and Islam Studies Enterprise.

Dec. 15, 2000: Al-Najjar is released after 3 1/2 years in jail without ever being charged. A federal judge says the use of secret evidence violated his rights.


Sept. 26: Al-Arian appears on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," where he is asked about tapes from the late 1980s and early 1990s in which he said "Death to Israel" in Arabic.

Sept. 28: USF trustees endorse President Judy Genshaft's decision to suspend Al-Arian with pay on grounds of campus safety.

Nov. 24: Federal agents again jail Al-Najjar in preparation for deportation. His attorneys sue for his release, arguing he cannot find a country willing to accept him.

Dec. 19: USF trustees recommend firing Al-Arian for not specifying he doesn't represent the university when he speaks and on grounds his outside activities disrupt the university. Genshaft notifies Al-Arian she intends to fire him.


Feb. 21: Interim U.S. Attorney Mac Cauley confirms Al-Arian is under federal investigation.

Aug. 21: Al-Najjar is deported, ending a long court fight. On the same day, USF asks a state judge to rule on whether firing Al-Arian would violate his First Amendment rights. In November, at Al-Arian's request, the case moves to federal court.

Dec. 16: U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew dismisses USF's request, saying the court has no role in a labor dispute.


Feb. 20: A federal indictment accuses Al-Arian of being a leader of the Islamic Jihad's operations in the United States. He and seven others are charged in a 50-count indictment that accuses them of running a criminal enterprise and conspiring in the United States to kill and maim others abroad.

March 21:Dr. Agha Saeed, National Chairman American Muslim Alliance, was the first witness called by the defense to testify on behalf of Prof. Sami Al-Arian, in Tampa, Florida.During the cross-examination, Dr. Saeed explained Prof. Al-Arian’s call for ‘Jihad’ by pointing out that this word has at least 7 meanings in the Islamic theological lexicon: self-purification and self-perfection, earning an honest living, public benefit, removal of social vices and inadequacies [poverty, illiteracy, hunger, etc.], speaking truth to power, generosity of heart, mind, and soul, and taking military action when subjected to oppression and injustice. “I believe that Prof. Arian had used the word ‘jihad’ to induce a spirit of self-purification and public benefit among the community members”, Dr. Agha Saeed told the court.

April 7:, Sami Al-Arian refused to enter a plea after a federal magistrate in Tampa, Florida, would not give him extra time to raise money for a private lawyer and assigned him two court-appointed attorneys instead. Al-Arian then had an innocent plea entered on his behalf by U.S. Magistrate Thomas B. McCoun III.

April 10: Al-Arian was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo who said that the evidence against Al-Arian was “substantial and convincing” and said he considered Al-Arian a flight risk.

June 5: At a hearing on June 5, U.S. District Judge James Moody set a trial date in January 2005, citing the complexity and unique nature of the terrorism-related case.

July 9: Dr. Sami Al Arian's court appointed lawyers filed a motion to be dismissed from his case. The motion filed with Judge James Moody in Tampa, Florida, would allow Al-Arian to represent himself, at his request, on the 50-count indictment unless he is successful in hiring another lawyer, according to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Peace and Justice.