Tags: Professor | Placed | Leave | With | Pay

Professor Placed on Leave With Pay

Friday, 28 September 2001 12:00 AM

The university said it took the action in the interests of safety for its faculty, staff and students.

Professor Sami Al-Arian was interviewed on "The O'Reilly Factor" television show Wednesday night about his invitation to a suspected terrorist leader to come to Tampa to head a think tank five years ago.

Host Bill O'Reilly remarked during the show that the university "may be a hotbed of support for Arab militants."

University President Judy Genshaft said the television appearance resulted in an uproar.

"We have been bombarded with telephone calls and e-mail from people who are concerned about the possibility of terrorist activity at USF," she said. "At least one of those telephone calls included a death threat to Dr. Al-Arian."

She said a task force is being formed to conduct an investigation, and while it is being conducted, Al-Arian will be on leave for his own safety and of those around him. She also cautioned him to remember to say that any of his remarks represent his own views and not those of the university.

"I pledge to you, my team and I are taking this very seriously. The University of South Florida is totally committed to our nation's war against terrorism," Genshaft said. "USF has no affiliation with any group that is known to have ties to terrorist organizations."

She said in the mid-1990s, the FBI and the university conducted investigations into Al-Arian's affiliation with World and Islam Studies Enterprises at the university.

It's director, Ramadan Abdulah Shallah, left the organization in 1995 and it was shut down. Shallah later became an official with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization.

Genshaft said Al-Arian was suspended with pay at that time, but after two years was reinstated after the two investigations absolved him.

"Neither investigation yielded evidence for disciplinary action against Dr. Al-Arian," Genshaft said.

In another case, a former University of South Florida professor was recently freed by federal authorities after being accused of being a Palestinian terrorist fundraiser. Before he was released in December, Mazen Al-Najjar spent more than three years in jail. He faced no formal charges and evidence in the case was kept secret.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The university said it took the action in the interests of safety for its faculty, staff and students. Professor Sami Al-Arian was interviewed on The O'Reilly Factor television show Wednesday night about his invitation to a suspected terrorist leader to come to Tampa to...
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2001-00-28
Friday, 28 September 2001 12:00 AM
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