Fired USF professor will seek to get job back

By Scott Powers The Orlando Sentinel (KRT) TAMPA, Fla. _ Sami Amin Al-Arian, accused of aiding Palestinian terrorists, intends to fight to get his job back as a University of South Florida professor but probably only if he is cleared of criminal charges. Al-Arian’s civil attorney Robert McKee said Thursday that Al-Arian instructed him to file a grievance with the University of South Florida, charging that the school wrongly fired him the day before. He will seek reinstatement. But McKee said any attempt to help Al-Arian get his job back will likely “take a back seat” to the former computer-science professor’s defense against a 50-count federal indictment. That indictment charges him with helping finance and run terrorist activities in Israel. Al-Arian, 45, of Temple Terrace, Fla., and three others were arrested Feb. 20 on those charges. In a 121-page indictment, the U.S. Justice Department says they helped finance and run the Palestine Islamic Jihad, also known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The indictment links that organization to 100 killings in Israel, including those of two Americans. Four other suspects also were indicted and remain at large. Al-Arian and two others are being held in jail in Tampa, with no bail set. U.S. District Judge Mark Pizzo postponed a bail hearing until March 24 because of the complexity of the case. Insisting nothing has been proven, McKee said the university should have given him an unpaid leave of absence until the criminal charges are resolved. “Obviously, if he is convicted of any of these very serious criminal charges, the employment matter becomes moot, so there is no downside for the university,” McKee said. “And if he’s cleared of the criminal charges, there should be no hesitation on the part of the university to say, `Well, we were wrong about this terrorism business, so you can come back and continue your career.’ ” McKee has 30 days to file the grievance. He said he is not yet clear what the grievance would say, other than charging that USF wrongfully dismissed Al-Arian. “The allegations contained in the notice of termination are unfounded and the university will have the obligation to prove them,” he said. Those allegations are spelled out in a four-page letter dated Wednesday from USF Provost S. David Stamps. It accuses Al-Arian of incorporating organizations called the Islamic Concern Project and the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, then using them and USF resources to promote conferences to raise money for terrorist activities, to bring terrorists into the United States, and to directly raise money for terrorist groups. McKee said he expects the university to agree to postpone any consideration of the grievance until after the criminal trial. USF spokesman Michael Reich said that would be considered. ___ ‘copy 2003, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.). Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at On America Online, use keyword: OSO. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.