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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 22, 2003

Professor identified as militant in '94

Some schools get a reputation for great teachers and education; others for successful sports teams. But for the University of South Florida it is its pro-terrorist faculty that makes headlines. The recent arrest is not the first faculty member to be exposed as a friend to terror
TAMPA -- It read like a plot twist from a John le Carre novel: A quiet, barely noticed economics professor suddenly quits his job at the University of South Florida, then emerges two months later as the leader of a murderous terrorist group in the Middle East.

It wasn't fiction, of course. It was fact. And the USF connection quickly drew the rapt attention of the FBI and Israeli intelligence when it happened back in 1995.

Eight years and a 50-count federal indictment later, Palestinian Islamic Jihad boss Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who taught economics and Middle Eastern history at USF, continues to cast a long shadow across the school.

Shallah was one of eight men indicted Thursday along with USF professor Sami Al-Arian and USF Arabic teacher Sameeh Hammoudeh. Attorney General John Ashcroft alleges Al-Arian is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's North American boss and the secretary of its international governing council.

The indictment alleged that from 1984 to 2002 Al-Arian and the seven others supported terrorism by providing material and money in a conspiracy to kill and maim Israelis. Each defendant faces life in prison if convicted.

Federal prosecutors say the group used the quiet, rambling campus of the Tampa commuter school as a cover while raising money to support terrorism, including a series of suicide bombings that killed dozens of people in Israel.

Besides Al-Arian, Shallah and Hammoudeh, two other alleged conspirators have ties to USF.

Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, a professor in London, and Mohammed Tasir Hassan Al-Khatib, now living in Beirut, were involved with Tampa nonprofit Islamic groups organized at USF by Al-Arian in the late '80s and early '90s.

In London, Nafi, a lecturer at the University of London's Birkbeck College, vehemently denied the charges. "I'm not associated with any political organization anywhere. I've been in this country since 1983. It's absolute nonsense," he told Press Association, a British news agency.

To be noted: the professor's salary not very high for his field, and the university, alerted by previous complaints about this turkey, had put him on leave at full salary. Now, before a trial, they are willing it seems to fire him.[more] and howAlleged terrorist met with Bush adviser shows how this guy turned up in good company.

Universities must be allowed tradtional academic freedoms even in light of potential terrorism and ought not stifle dissent or punish those suspect so long as there is no evidence of criminal misdoing, as noted in these remarks on academic freeom regarding the charges brought against the Tampa-based computer engineer.