Students support embattled prof

BY KELLY FRASER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 12, 2005

LSA Senior Shimaa Abdelfadeel is mailing something other than fruitcakes this holiday season.

Abdelfadeel, political chair of the University's Muslim Students' Association, has collected about 20 letters of support to send to Sami Al-Arian, an outspoken pro-Palestinian activist and former engineering professor at the University of South Florida.

Federal authorities jailed Al-Arian in 2003 on charges that he supported a cell of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group linked to the deaths of Israelis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Currently, Al-Arian is in a Florida jail.

"I'm sending the letters to let him know he is not forgotten and to hang in there, our prayers are with you," Abdelfadeel said, adding that he is a family friend.

A jury acquitted Al-Arian last Tuesday on seven of the 18 charges against him, and deadlocked on the remaining 11.

The ruling marked a defeat for federal authorities who used investigation techniques permitted by the Patriot Act, such as wire-taps, to build what they said they believed to be a strong case against Al-Arian.

The partial ruling is significant because it may mean that the prosecution worked with faulty evidence, said Ronald Stockton, a political science professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

"The government's prosecution in a couple of cases has fallen apart," Stockton said.

Al-Arian remains in jail as federal prosecutors decide if they should retry him on the deadlocked charges.

The acquittal on the seven charges gives Abdelfadeel hope that Al-Arian will be acquitted on all charges.

"I was ecstatically happy," said Abdelfadeel, who describes him as an active leader for community development programs and human rights. "It renewed my faith in the justice system."

Abdelfadeel plans to send out the letters today.

Prior to his arrest, Al-Arian was a frequent visitor to Ann Arbor, often staying at Abdelfadeel's house.

He drew the most attention from the University community in October 2002 for his appearance at the Second National Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement.

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality held the conference amid strong protests from the Israeli community.

The controversy peaked when two pro-Israeli students filed suit against the University days before the conference to stop the event or ban its speakers from campus. A judge denied the lawsuit a hearing in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court the day before the conference began.