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Friday, June 11, 2004

Idaho, USA
Saudi grad student acquitted on terrorism charges

BOISE (AP) — A Saudi graduate student was acquitted Thursday of charges that he used his computer expertise to foster terrorism.

The case against Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, 34, was seen as an important test of a provision of the Patriot Act that makes it a crime to provide expert advice or assistance to terrorists.

The jury reached its verdict after seven days of deliberations and a trial that lasted seven weeks.

Al-Hussayen, a computer science student at the University of Idaho, was acquitted on all three terrorism counts, as well as one count of making a false statement and two counts of visa fraud. Jurors could not reach verdicts on three more false statement counts and five additional visa fraud counts, and a mistrial was declared on those charges.

Al-Hussayen set up and ran Web sites that prosecutors say were used to recruit terrorists, raise money and disseminate inflammatory rhetoric.

His defense maintained that his association with the Web sites was as a Muslim volunteer and computer expert who simply wanted to keep the sites in operation.

Al-Hussayen's attorneys have argued that he had little to do with the creation of the material posted. And they say the material was protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and was not designed to raise money or recruit militants.

But prosecutors cited religious edicts justifying suicide bombings and an invitation to financially support the militant Palestinian organization Hamas in arguing that Al-Hussayen should be convicted.