[fla-left] [civil liberties] Colleagues testify on behalf of jailed Palestinian professor (fwd)

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Mon Oct 16 04:44:07 MDT 2000

forwarded by Michael Hoover

> University colleagues support jailed Palestinian
> The Associated Press Web-posted: 11:13 p.m. Oct. 10, 2000
> BRADENTON -- Academic colleagues of a Palestinian jailed for more
> than three years on secret evidence told a judge on Tuesday that
> the man suspected of having terrorist ties is a "gentle,
> peace-loving" person whom they never knew to sanction violence.
> Mazen Al-Najjar was described during a bond hearing as the
> workhorse of an Islamic think tank affiliated with the University
> of South Florida that published a respected scholarly journal and
> brought experts on Middle East studies to debate and discuss
> issues.
> His colleagues said they never knew the organization Al-Najjar
> managed, World and Islam Studies Enterprise, to be connected to
> terrorists.
> USF political science professor and respected Middle East scholar
> Jamil Jreisat echoed the sentiment, saying he saw no links between
> WISE and terrorists.
> One man left WISE in 1995 to assume the leadership of the
> Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Another former WISE
> leader's brother also led the Islamic Jihad.
> Arthur Lowrie, a former high-ranking U.S. State Department
> official who was an adjunct professor at USF from 1987 to 1996,
> said WISE brought some of the world's most prestigious academic
> minds on Middle East issues together for lively discussions that
> included a wide-range of opinions.
> When asked if he thought Al-Najjar was a threat to national
> security, Lowrie responded that Al-Najjar was a scholar, a
> moderate thinker, a devout Muslim and a tolerant person.
> WISE's first leader, Khalil Shikaki, went on to become of the head
> of a respected policy group in the West Bank.
> Lowrie, who was a member of a USF committee that linked the
> university to WISE, said he asked Shikaki what kind of activities
> the group was involved in and was assured that it was only
> involved in scholarly work.
> ___________________
> Professors say group was legitimate
> The two men testified on behalf of a former USF teacher accused of
> having ties to Middle East terrorists.
> =A9 St. Petersburg Times, published October 11, 2000
> BRADENTON -- Two University of South Florida professors testified
> Tuesday to the high academic caliber of a Tampa think tank and one
> of its members, jailed Tampa resident Mazen Al-Najjar.
> But the government said the professors are gullible and that the
> think tank was a front for aiding terrorists.
> Al-Najjar, 43, was back in immigration court to fight for bail
> after being detained 31/2 years on secret evidence alleging he has
> ties to Middle East terrorists.
> The resumption Tuesday came after proceedings abruptly halted in
> August when the government tried to introduce secret evidence.
> Al-Najjar's attorneys went back to a federal judge and asked her
> to enforce her previous order that secret evidence cannot be
> introduced until the public portion of the hearing is complete.
> The first witnesses to take the stand on Al-Najjar's behalf,
> Arthur Lowrie, a retired international studies professor and
> former foreign services officer in the Middle East, and Jamil
> Jreisat, a professor of public administration, both lauded the
> conferences and journals produced by the think tank.
> Called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, it joined USF in
> co-sponsoring seven academic roundtables from 1991 to 1995.
> The government alleges the now-defunct WISE was a front for
> terrorists. Al-Najjar was part of a clandestine effort to fund the
> Damascus-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the government says.
> The professors were either gullible or negligent about what was
> going on, the government suggested.
> "The veil of legitimacy has been pierced," Daniel Vara, district
> counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said after
> the six-hour hearing.
> Jreisat was having none of it. He and Lowrie both said they were
> aware of no terrorist activities by Al-Najjar or WISE.
> When asked by Vara if he would walk out of a political conference
> if Israel or America were verbally attacked, Jreisat refused to
> answer "yes" or "no," as instructed.
> "I would call that freedom of expression," he said. As to
> fundraising, he said he would need to know if the funds were to
> "feed an orphan or purchase a weapon."
> Al-Najjar has not been charged with a crime. A former USF Arabic
> teacher and father of three, he is detained while appealing
> deportation on an expired visa.
> On Tuesday, his attorneys again asked that the government provide
> the legally mandated summary of its secret evidence so they could
> better present his case.
> Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh declined, acknowledging they
> must receive one but that he is undecided about when.

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