Ramadan Shallah was looking forward to leaving the United States.
"Running around in this country, even staying in it, transforms people into freaks," he wrote in a March 21, 1995, fax sent to Fathi Shikaki, the secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Shallah, who was born in the Gaza Strip, had been in the United States since the early 1990s, sponsored by Sami Al- Arian, then a professor at the University of South Florida.
At the time Shallah sent the fax to Shikaki, Shallah was teaching Middle East Studies at USF and working at Al-Arian's think tank, World and Islam Studies Enterprise. He would leave the United States that June. After Shikaki was assassinated in 1995, Shallah emerged as the secretary general of the Islamic Jihad.
He almost left the country without anyone noticing he was here.
But The Tampa Tribune started asking questions.
In April 1995, reporter Michael Fechter wanted to talk to Al-Arian and Shallah about WISE and its ties to USF and their relationship to Shikaki and the Islamic Jihad.
On April 15, USF Professor Art Lowrie called Shallah to let him know the paper was "doing a story on the connection between USF and WISE," according to a tape of the conversation played in Al-Arian's trial Wednesday. "The thing he [Fechter] kept coming back to is Sami," Lowrie said. "It all goes back to `Jihad in America,' " he said, referring to a controversial documentary that linked Al-Arian to the Islamic Jihad.
On April 29, two days after Fechter faxed Al-Arian a list of questions, Shallah called Shikaki to talk about "problems with the press," according to a transcript of the conversation read to jurors Wednesday.
Among other issues, Shallah worried that his name was going to be made public, and he seemed to think Al-Arian partly was to blame.
"There were some internal problems, the way that he [Al- Arian] from the beginning, you know, made mistakes that have to do with his passion for appearing in the press," Shallah said.
Referring to himself in the third person by a code name, Rashad, Shallah said, "For the first time in this entire story, this is what will possibly happen in the next two to three days," he said. "For the first time, Rashad's name will be mentioned in it. You know, all the time there was nothing or any relation with the press."
At least not with the American press.
Transcripts read to jurors show Shallah wrote articles for an Islamic Jihad publication, Al-Esteqlal, and more than once telephoned the publication's offices in Gaza to talk about editing and distribution.
In one conversation, an unidentified man in Gaza talked about something Shallah had sent late.
"Please don't reproach me," Shallah responded, "but I am actually tired of being a journalist. ... I mean this situation is very tiring. When you practice it, you feel that it is not the same as when you consider it from a distance."
Prosecutors also have alleged that Shallah, Al-Arian and the other defendants helped the Islamic Jihad publicize its violent activities.
On Wednesday, the prosecution presented more evidence to support that assertion, reading to jurors from a fax that "cheerfully" announced a suicide bombing in Israel that had claimed the lives of a 20-year-old U.S. college student, Alisa Flatow, and seven Israelis.
The fax was sent from Islamic Jihad headquarters to Shalah's residence on April 9, 1995. According to the evidence presented in court, a minute after Shallah received the announcement, he faxed it to a phone number in Chicago.