An Idaho jury’s acquittal of a Saudi graduate student charged with helping raise money for terrorists is “encouraging” for a Muslim doctor facing similar charges here, his defense attorney said Thursday.
However, attorney Deveraux Cannick said if it appears a fair and impartial jury cannot be seated in Syracuse, he’ll seek a change of venue for the trial of Dr. Rafil Dhafir, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 27.
Cannick said the June 10 acquittal of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen has renewed his confidence that Dhafir could get a fair trial.
Hussayen, a 34-year-old Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Idaho, was charged with using his expertise to help Muslim terrorists set up and run Web sites to raise money and attract recruits.
The government failed to provide any “clear-cut evidence” to support the terrorism charges against Hussayen, a juror said.
Cannick said the Idaho acquittal shows anti-Arab fervor in the United States has lessened. The attorney added that Dhafir — arrested when the country was poised for war with Iraq and anti-Arab sentiment was high — has probably benefited by his trial being delayed.
Dhafir, of Fayetteville, and three other men were charged in February 2003 with conspiring to violate a U.S. embargo against Iraq through a Syracuse-based charity called Help the Needy. Dhafir said the money was used to help the poor and needy in Iraq. Prosecutors said Help The Needy raised nearly $5 million from 1994 until February 2003, and at least $160,000 wound up in Iraq.
A U.S. citizen born in Iraq, Dhafir has not been charged with terrorism crimes, although prosecutors continue to investigate him for possible links to terrorist groups. He has been denied bail four times and remains in jail while awaiting trial. Cannick has appealed Dhafir’s detention to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. A hearing is scheduled for early July”¦
Cannick has argued the government is discriminating against Dhafir because he is Muslim and Iraqi, and has unjustly held him in jail on charges that — if true — would make the doctor nothing more than a white-collar criminal”¦