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Farewell Messages from a PIJ Co-Conspirator By: Joe Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 02, 2006

Sameeh Hammoudeh has come full circle.  Born in the West Bank (of the “territories”), after 39 months behind bars in the United States, he’s now back in the West Bank, deported for tax fraud.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Hammoudeh had pled guilty to charges of “conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and commit offenses against the United States, making false statements to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and filing a false tax return in 1998 with the Internal Revenue Service.”  The guilty plea came after a long drawn-out court battle, where he had been tried, unsuccessfully, by the U.S. for having taken part in a Tampa-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror cell headed by North American PIJ leader, Sami Al-Arian.

Hammoudeh’s trip home, last week, consisted of stops in Detroit, Amman (Jordan), and Tel Aviv (Israel), with friendly agents and officials to escort him to each of the given locations.  His final destination was the city of Ramallah, a major hub of both Intifadas (Palestinian Uprisings) and the scene of the infamous lynching of two detained Israeli soldiers by an angry Arab mob, in October of 2000.  What better place to send an operative for Palestinian Islamic Jihad!  Before his departure on the morning of the 22nd and after his arrival, he had much to say and much more to spew. 


Hammoudeh was awaiting his deportation, at the Manatee County Jail, located in Bradenton, Florida.  He was placed there, at the conclusion of his PIJ conspiracy trial, in December of 2005.  One of the perks of being in this prison is what seems to be unfettered access to the phones.  Hammoudeh took advantage of this, by contacting radio stations sympathetic to his “plight.”


One of the programs he spoke with was WMNF’s True Talk, a show co-hosted by the Communications Director of CAIR-Florida, Ahmed Bedier, and author Samar Dahmash-Jarrah, whose hostility towards the American government is only trumped by her extreme hatred for the state of Israel.  On the show, which aired live on March 3, 2006, Hammoudeh relayed his feelings towards President Bush, his acquittal, and Jews in Israel.


Hammoudeh, who had recently been brought up on charges for helping to raise and dispatch funds for overseas suicide operations, via a children’s school he was working at in Tampa, Florida, took the opportunity to lecture America on the state of its morality.


Jarrah:  “Sameeh, do you have any ideas for Americans – how they can reclaim back their country?”


Hammoudeh: “Well, I think they have to impeach George Bush, and they have to kick this administration out, because these people are portraying America or projecting America as a country without a moral system.  I mean, look at everything they are doing.  Everything there are lies there… This country has no morals, no values.”


Many pundits, after the trial, hypothesized how Hammoudeh and his three PIJ colleagues could have been acquitted, when the evidence against them was overwhelming.  Hammoudeh provides Ahmed Bedier and the listening audience the revelation that he knew beforehand that he was going to be found innocent.  [Bedier, in an earlier show, had commented to Ghassan Ballut, another co-conspirator from the trial, that he noticed “all” the co-defendants were “laughing” and “smiling” before the verdicts were read.]


Bedier:  “Y’know, I was in the courtroom, when the verdict was read, three months ago, Sameeh… I remember seeing you in the courtroom, that day, and you looked like you were smiling, happy, well before the verdict was announced.  You didn’t look like you were stressed out or worried or nervous or anything.”


Hammoudeh:  “No, I was not worried at all.  And this is why I fight to leave this country.  Because I knew in advance that the jury will acquit me.  I know the people; they have goodness inside themselves, and they will not believe the lies of the government.”


Hammoudeh, on the show, discussed how Jews, following WWII, were “exported” to Israel – completely ignoring the worldwide Zionist movement and the international sympathy for those that fell victim to the Holocaust.


Bedier: “So how do you feel about Jewish people or other people outside Islam?”


Hammoudeh:  “Well, I want to tell you that, in my Masters thesis, I wrote about the Arab-Israeli conflict and how the Americans treated it, and I looked at the Jews as a victim of the Western civilization.  I mean, the Jews were a victim, inside the West, and they wanted to get rid of them.  So this is why they exported them to Palestine.”


On May 3, 2006, Hammoudeh was interviewed by left wing independent media journalist, Amy Goodman, for Democracy Now!  On the show, he, once again, attacked the U.S. government for how it treated him during the trial.  And in the process of doing so, he brought up a fantastic story about how a special agent played with Hammoudeh’s name.


Goodman: “Why are you still in jail?”


Hammoudeh:  “Well, because the whole case is based on what we can call an abuse of power… the whole case was based on fabrication, violation – I mean fabrication, manipulation of facts, inventing even facts and events that did not even take place.  The special agent who directed this case said things that never happened, never occurred.  And he even – in his testimony, he changed my name to rhyme with the name of Sami Al-Arian… he changed my name to Hami, which rhymes with Sami, and whenever he was talking about Sami, he would combine me there, because he had no evidence whatsoever even to indict me.”


Sameeh Hammoudeh’s name (along with aliases) is mentioned, in the indictment, in relation to potential terrorist activity, over 100 times.  Telephone conversations, faxes back and forth, close relationships to leaders of PIJ, Hammoudeh told the show host that this was all a lie, for the simple reason that he was a “Palestinian.”


Goodman: “Sameeh Hammoudeh, the last word goes to you, as you speak to us detained in Bradenton, Florida.”


Hammoudeh:  “Well, I will just say what the jurors found after five months of the government’s presentation… I mean, they even did not discuss what the government had said about me, because they did not believe anything.  Everything was fabrication.  Everything was a mere lie, sad lies.  This is what they did, and this is what they are insisting on doing to me and to continue my ordeal, only because I am a stateless Palestinian…”


Hammoudeh arrived at his new/old home to meet his wife and kids, who were, themselves, deported from the U.S. in February.  Just two days later, on Friday, May 26th, Hammoudeh found himself on the airwaves again, for an encore performance on True Talk.


It’s easy to understand why Hammoudeh would repeatedly choose this show to discuss his situation.  There was a history involved.  The co-host, Bedier, a CAIR official, had been the main defender in the media of the four PIJ co-conspirators on trial, to the point where Bedier stated, on a local television show, that, prior to 1995, there was “nothing immoral” about associating with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  As well, Sami Al-Arian, the leader of the Tampa PIJ cell, had a physical connection to CAIR’s parent organization, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP); Al-Arian was a co-founder of the group.


On the program, Hammoudeh went into detail about a number of subjects.  One was his description of the travel arrangements that took him from America to the Middle East, with a friendly Israeli interrogation looking forward to his arrival.


Bedier:  “So you knew you were leaving?”


Hammoudeh: “Yeah, I knew that I am leaving.  On Sunday, Sunday night, they came and took me from the sixth floor, where I was, and they took me to the second floor.  They put me in a cell with the other inmates, who were leaving the next day.  Monday morning, two agents from the ICE – immigration from Tampa – they came, and they took me to the airport, and we flew to Detroit, Michigan… and they told me that we are going to Jordan… in Jordan, we found that there was a representative from the American Embassy, there, waiting for us.  And then, they told me that we are going to the bridge… and we have to leave, because there is another two guys from the American Embassy in Washington, waiting for us… So we pass, and we went to the Israeli side, and the Israelis, they took my passport … And the Israeli intelligence, what’s been known as the Mossad, they interviewed me for almost two hours or maybe more than two hours.”


Hammoudeh, while describing an Israeli letter, in which he claims the United States kept him behind bars longer than necessary, brought up the subject of Muneer Arafat, a witness that was called to testify against Al-Arian.  Arafat, at the time, had been Imam of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, a radical mosque where, just prior to the trial, an Al-Qaeda operative, Rafiq Sabir, had been picked up by the FBI.  Arafat, himself, has been known to praise suicide bombers.  On the stand, Arafat admitted to having been a PIJ member, from a rival faction to that of Al-Arian.  Bedier, protecting Al-Arian, referred to Arafat as a “so-called, self-proclaimed imam,” and Jarrah called him “an informant.”


Bedier:  “Yeah, so it seems like it was just a big charade there?”


Hammoudeh:  “It was just a letter to justify what they were doing.  You see?  Actually, they hold me for six months only to punish me.”


Bedier:  “Because you were victorious.  You were innocent.”


Hammoudeh: “Exactly, that’s one thing.  And because I refuse to cooperate with them.  I refuse to be another Muneer Arafat.”


Bedier: “If listeners don’t remember who Muneer Arafat was, he was the so-called, self-proclaimed Imam, who dresses like an Imam, he has a long beard, he speaks the Arabic language.  He’s originally Palestinian, and he was an Imam, here in Florida, and he testified for the government.  But in cross-examination, he did admit that he received $35,000 for his testimony.  Then, he also admitted that he had lied previously on his resume, saying that he is a college graduate, when he was not, and he went into this whole detail, which shamed the Muslim community, because he tried to justify his previous lying by saying, ‘In Islam, you have a white lie and a black lie.’”


Jarrah: “So he was an informant.”


Hammoudeh: “I want to add something else about what he, the things that he lied on.  He wrote, asking for an election card to get into the business of electing his President or any elections here, and he change his name, and that was his own testimony… And he change his name to ‘Muneer Arfat.’  You know and, those who know the Arabic language, they know what ‘arfat’ mean.  I mean, if I were translate it, a simple word… It’s like a pimp… He was calling himself this!  He himself called him that!”


The interview ended with Hammoudeh discussing his future plans and taking a few extra jabs at the American government.


Jarrah: “And we also have several, always phone calls in support of you and Dr. Sami Al-Arian.  What’s next for you, Sameeh?”


Hammoudeh:  “What’s next for me?  Number one, I want to finish my PhD dissertation… Second, I’m going to write a book about the case, because I want everybody to know how the American government, instead of protecting the truth, and instead of spending the tax money wisely, they wasted millions of dollars knowing that they are going to waste it just to lie, to fabricate things.”


Bedier:  “Do you have a name for the book?”


Hammoudeh:  “My initial thinking is ‘The Abuse of Power: How the United States Shifted the War on Terrorism.’”


Bedier:  “Wonderful!  You’ll have speaking engagements around the world then.”


Jarrah:  “Sameeh, one last question, is USF going to grant you the PhD?”


Hammoudeh:  “Yes, of course.  I mean, I applied for reinstatement, and I was granted that.”


Bedier:  “Hamdulillah!  Well, you were found innocent of all charges, so you, you don’t have a conviction on your record.  You have a clean record.  You were never associated with any type of violence, and I think that message needs to get out there.  You’re an innocent person in this whole thing.”


Hammoudeh:  “Not only that.  I’m a victim of the American government.  This is what I want everybody to know, and the charges they deport me on, I was forced, forced to sign for them.”


The case against Sameeh Taha Hammoudeh, and his three fellow PIJ co-conspirators, ended in abject failure.  While these four were involved with the PIJ cell in Tampa, over 100 innocent people, including two Americans, were murdered in the process, the unfortunate victims of PIJ terror attacks.


Because the United States government lost this case, and because the government opted to try this case in a civilian court, in the first place, people like Ahmed Bedier feel empowered to scream Hammoudeh’s innocence; Sameeh Hammoudeh is free to curse America at will; and the University of South Florida, evidently, is more than happy to embrace Hammoudeh and further his education.  However, this is all a false mask for a very sick reality, where loved ones died horrific deaths and others were maimed for life. 

No doubt, Sameeh Hammoudeh was given a lifeline by a severely flawed American jury system, only to be deported for a lesser but still serious charge of tax fraud.  Now, hopefully, the Israelis will take the wiser approach and pull that lifeline away – or at least make him long to be placed back in an American prison.

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Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the founder of CAIR Watch.

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