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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 22:20 GMT
US clears terror funding suspect
Sami al-Arian
Sami al-Arian said he was targeted for his political views
A US federal jury in Florida has cleared a university professor of funding Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad after a five-month trial.

Sami al-Arian wept after hearing he had been cleared of eight of the 17 counts, including conspiracy to murder and material support for a terrorist group.

With jurors deadlocked on the other counts, he remains in custody while prosecutors consider a retrial.

Two co-accused were acquitted of all charges and a third cleared of most.

Co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Zayed Ballut were acquitted of all charges against them while Hatem Naji Fariz was found not guilty on 24 counts, with jurors deadlocked on the remaining eight.

It was not immediately clear what charges against Mr Arian and Mr Fariz the jury deadlocked on after 13 days of deliberations.

Hundred deaths

Mr Arian, a former computer engineering professor at the University of South Florida, was arrested with the others in 2003 on charges of providing funds for Islamic Jihad, which is on the US terror list.

Another five people were charged in connection with the case but are either at large or abroad.

Observers say this is one of the most high-profile terror prosecutions in the US since the 9/11 attacks.

The US says Islamic Jihad is responsible for the deaths of over 100 people in the Middle East, including American citizens.

The four defendants would have faced life in prison if convicted.

'Humanitarian aid'

Mr Arian has argued he was implicated in the case because of his political opinions against the state of Israel and his campaign for Palestinian rights.

He says he has never advocated violence against others and denies any connection to terrorists.

A US resident, Mr Arian was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, and has lived in the US for 30 years.

He was one of the founders of a think-tank, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, and a charity, the Islamic Committee for Palestine, formed in the late 1980s and 1990s to support an independent Palestinian state.

The indictment charged that he had used the groups as fronts to funnel money to terrorists.

Mr Arian says the money was sent to help Palestinian children in refugee camps.

The prosecution called a number of Israeli witnesses, including relatives of suicide attack victims, police officers and rescue workers.

Sami al-Arian: The 'banned professor'
20 Feb 03 |  Middle East
Who are Islamic Jihad?
09 Aug 01 |  Profiles

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