For the first time since Sami Al-Arian's trial started two months ago, prosecutors presented direct evidence Monday that Al-Arian tried to raise money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad after it was illegal to do so.
Jurors were read a Feb. 10, 1995, letter Al-Arian wrote to Kuwaiti legislator Isma'il al- Shatti. The letter was seized from Al-Arian's house during a search in November 1995.
It was written 18 days after a double suicide bombing in Beit Lid, Israel, that killed 22 people, including 20 Israeli soldiers. The letter was dated 16 days after President Clinton designated the Islamic Jihad a foreign terrorist organization, making it illegal to provide it material support.
"The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahideen who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best guide and witness to what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy and in keeping the flame of faith, steadfastness and defiance glowing," the letter states, according to a government translation consented to by the defense.
After the letter was read, Al- Arian's attorney, William Moffitt, moved for a mistrial, arguing there was no proof the letter was sent or received. Moffitt said the government interviewed al-Shatti, who did not remember seeing the letter.
"At the very least," Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter E. Furr III responded, "it's an attempt. It's an attempt to get money after the designation."
Moffitt said that if the letter was not mailed, it was not an attempt at anything. It could be, the attorney argued, that Al-Arian wrote the letter in an emotional state because he was upset about things that were happening in the Middle East.
U.S. District Judge James Moody denied the mistrial request and told Moffitt he was free to make that argument to the jury during his summation.
Furr told jurors in his opening statement that wiretapped conversations show that Al-Arian had the letter hand-carried to its recipient.
On Monday, prosecutors read transcripts of conversations Al-Arian had with a Sudanese man, Ahmad Makki, who was in Chicago for a conference Al-Arian attended. In one conversation, on Feb. 12, 1995, two days after the date of the letter, Al-Arian said, "By God, there are messages that we must have you carry. We must have you carry them."
The conversations were not specific about the messages, and it was not clear whether Makki was able to get them from Al-Arian.
Another conversation read to jurors on Monday involved Ramadan Shallah and an unidentified man at the Islamic Jihad's headquarters in Damascus, Syria.
Shallah, whose entrance into the United States was sponsored by Al-Arian, then was working at Al-Arian's think tank, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise. Several months after the March 4, 1995, conversation, Shallah left the United States and emerged as the new secretary general of the Islamic Jihad after the former secretary general, Fathi Shikaki, was assassinated.
In the conversation, Shallah expresses joy at having watched videos made by suicide bombers. The conversation was not explicit, however, and Moody granted a defense motion to strike from the record an explanation given by FBI Agent Kerry Myers on the subject of the conversation.
The judge did not strike Myers' testimony that a reference to a "wedding" was code for a suicide attack. That came in a statement by Shallah, talking about videos, in which he said, "The fourth one contains the last wedding."
At another point, in an apparent reference to a suicide bomber, Shallah said to the other man, "Did you see his smile? ... It has been two days that I have been dreaming of him."