Thursday, June 10, 2004

Apparently even Idahoans are unpatriotic these days.
A federal jury in Idaho on Thursday acquitted a Saudi computer student of charges that he spread terrorism on the Internet, handing the Justice Department a resounding defeat in a case that turned on a provision of the USA Patriot Act.

The case of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, 34, in Boise had become a test of the scope of U.S. anti-terror laws, including a provision of the Patriot Act that targets secondary players.

Al-Hussayen was arrested in February 2003 in an early morning raid at his campus home at the University of Idaho in Moscow. He was accused of designing web sites and posting messages on the Internet to help recruit and raise funds ffor terrorist missions in Chechnya and Israel. His attorneys argued that he was being prosecuted for expressing views protected by the First Amendment.

The jury of four men and eight women delivered their verdicts after deliberating seven days. The trial lasted seven weeks and featured a convicted terrorist who said he was influenced by Al-Hussayen's web writings, and a retired CIA operative who said he thoughtthe government's case was a waste of time.

Al-Hussayen was acquitted on all three terrorism counts against him, as well as one count of making a false statement and two counts of visa fraud. Jurors could not reach verdicts on several other false-statement and visa-fraud counts, and a mistrial was declared on those charges.

'I think they need to focus on real terrorism cases. There are plenty of ways to do that without dismantling the Constitution,' David Nevin, Al-Hussayen's lawyer, said in an interview after the verdict. 'The message (from the jury to the Justice Department) has to be, `Do it the right way.'
If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere ... tumblin'


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