STATEMENT OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
February 20, 2003
Today, the U. S. Department of Justice is announcing the indictment of Sami Al-Arian and seven co-conspirators. Among those charged are several individuals in the leadership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a U.S. government designated foreign terrorist organization, committed to suicide bombings and violent jihad activities.
As the indictment details, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is responsible for the murder of over 100 innocent people in Israel and the Occupied Territories, including at least two young Americans, Alisa Flatow, age 20, and Shoshana Ben-Yishai, age 16. FBI agents have arrested the four defendants who are located in the United States, including the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Sami Al-Arian. Searches also are underway in six locations in the Tampa area and one location in Illinois.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad is one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world. Its goals are best described in the "Manifesto of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine," a document discovered in the course of this investigation. As explained in the indictment, the "Manifesto" rejects, and I quote, "any peaceful solution to the Palestinian cause" and affirms "the Jihad solution and the martyrdom style as the only choice for liberation." Again, the indictment explains that the "Manifesto" refers to the United States as "the Great-Satan America" and indicates that the only purpose of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is to destroy Israel and to end all Western influence in the region.
The detailed, 50 count indictment charges the eight defendants with operating a racketeering enterprise from 1984 until the present that supported numerous violent terrorist activities associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The terrorist activities of the defendants are detailed in part in now-declassified national security wiretaps described in the indictment.
The indictment describes other Palestinian Islamic Jihad-assisted terrorist attacks and outlines what these defendants did here in the United States to organize and fund the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
This indictment charges that these named defendants were "material supporters" of a foreign terrorist organization. They financed, extolled, and assisted acts of terror. Our message to them and others like them is clear: we make no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance, manage or supervise terrorist organizations. We will bring justice to the full network of terror.
Some acts of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad described in the indictment include:
- An April 6, 1994, incident in Afula, Israel, in which Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives detonated a car bomb next to a public bus, murdering nine people and injuring approximately 50 others;
- A September 4, 1994, incident in which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad murdered one person and injured several others in a drive-by shooting near Mirage Junction, Gaza;
- The November 11, 1994, suicide bombing near Netzarim Junction, Gaza, which murdered three and injured eleven;
- The January 25, 1995, murder of 22 people in a double suicide bombing at Beit Lid, Israel; and
- The June 5, 2002, suicide bombing in Haifa, Israel, which murdered 20 and injured 50.
Four of the eight Palestinian Islamic Jihad members charged have been arrested in Florida and Illinois today. They include:
- Sami Amin Al-Arian, 45, born in Kuwait, a resident of Temple Terrace, Florida, and for a number of years a professor at the University of South Florida's College of Engineering. Al-Arian has lived in the United States since he came here as a college student over 25 years ago. As the indictment alleges, Al-Arian is not only the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in North America, but he also served as the Secretary of the "Shura Council" -- the worldwide governing group of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The indictment states: "In his capacity as a leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he directed the audit of all moneys and property of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad throughout the world…";
- Al-Arian's U.S. associates and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members arrested today include: Sameeh Hammoudeh, Hatim Naji Fariz, and Ghassan Zayed Ballut.
The other four individuals named in the indictment are charged as the top worldwide leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They are currently overseas.
- Ramadan Shallah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Secretary General, currently in Damascus, Syria. Shallah formerly resided in Florida, where he served as Executive Director of the World Islam and Studies Enterprise (WISE), a think tank founded by Al-Arian. The United States has named Shallah a designated terrorist;
- Muhammed Tasir Hassan Al-Katib, the Treasurer of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a member of the Shura Council;
- Abd al Aziz Awda, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad founder and spiritual leader. The United States named Awda as a designated terrorist;
- Bahir Nafi, another Palestinian Islamic Jihad founder and leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the United Kingdom, currently living in Great Britain.
Charges in the indictment include:
- Operating a racketeering enterprise that engaged in a number of violent activities including murder, extortion, money laundering, and providing material support to terrorism;
- Conspiring within the United States to kill and maim persons abroad;
- Conspiring to provide material support or resources to Palestinian Islamic Jihad;
- Conspiring to violate emergency economic sanctions and;
- Engaging in various acts of interstate extortion, perjury, obstruction, and immigration fraud.
All the defendants face life in prison.
The Department of Justice has pledged to use all of our means within the law to identify, disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks.
This indictment is the most recent of the Department's efforts to choke off terrorist resources and financing. The Department's achievements include:
- 70+ terrorist financing or material support investigations into terrorism financing;
- 23 convictions to date;
- 36 entities designated as terrorist organizations;
- $113m frozen in financial assets of 62 organizations that support terrorism;
- In Illinois, Enaam Arnaout, the executive director of the Benevolence International Foundation, pleaded guilty and admitted fraudulently obtaining charitable donations- and using them to provide financial assistance to individuals engaged in violence …..and the list goes on.
- (We have provided a more thorough list to you today of our successful efforts to break up terrorist financing.)
Our record on terrorist support networks is clear: We will hunt down the suppliers of terrorist money, we will shut down these sources, and we will ensure that both terrorists and their financiers meet the same, swift, certain justice of the United States of America.
I thank especially FBI Director Bob Mueller for his outstanding leadership, and Pat D'Amuro, FBI Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence. I thank also Paul Perez, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Jarboe, for their tireless work in bringing these defendants to justice.
I recognize also Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, as well as the many prosecutors of the Terrorist Financing Task Force, for their relentless, dedicated efforts in our mission to prevent terrorism. I commend you all, and thank you for your sacrifice and your service.
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