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Florida terror trial verdict seen as DOJ setback

[JURIST] A series of not guilty verdicts [JURIST report] returned by a federal jury Tuesday for former Florida professor Sami Al-Arian [JURIST news archive; advocacy website] on terrorism charges is being called a major defeat for law enforcement officials. Al-Arian was indicted [PDF indictment] for allegedly supporting terrorists, but the jury found him not guilty on the most serious charges, including conspiring to kill people overseas, perjury and immigration violations, and deadlocked on the remaining nine counts raised against him. There were also no guilty verdicts entered against Al-Arian's three co-defendants, indicted with him in 2003 [JURIST report] for allegedly operating the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) [CDI backgrounder] in the United States. The case is a blow to the Justice Department, who gathered evidence for ten years and relied on expanded surveillance powers authorized by the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] to tape 20,000 hours of telephone conversations between Al-Arian and his associates. Much of the recorded conversations took place before the 1995 designation of PIJ as a terrorist group, however, and therefore could not be used to prove that Al-Arian supported a terrorist organization. Justice Department officials are currently considering whether to re-try Al-Arian [US DOJ statement] on the counts where the jury did not reach a verdict. Wednesday's New York Times has more.

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