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December 24, 2001
Palestinian Professor to be Fired
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University of South Florida is moving to fire a tenured, Palestinian-born professor, amid allegations that he has terrorist links.

University President Judy Genshaft sent the professor, Sami Al-Arian, a termination letter on Wednesday.

Al-Arian has been on paid leave since September, because the university feared for his safety after he received numerous death threats.

Similarly, Genshaft said community outrage and safety concerns led her to decide to fire Al-Arian. She said campus police told her it probably would never be safe to allow him back on campus.

"This man has been on the campus for over 10 years and 15 percent of the time he had been paid for doing nothing," she said.

University officials also said they have a 6-inch stack of e-mails about Al-Arian, the majority criticizing the Tampa-based university for employing him; some threatened to withdraw financial support.

The professor would not comment on the school's decision but has previously denied he supports terrorism, according to the AP. He has never been detained or charged with a crime.

Al-Arian, who is paid more than $67,000 a year as a computer science professor, is also a community activist who runs an Islamic school and community center.

In addition, he founded the World and Islam Studies Enterprises, a now-defunct think tank that was headquartered at the university until the FBI raided it in 1995 and froze its assets.

The FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service alleged that the think tank and a related Palestinian charity were a fund-raising front for terrorists. The charity held conferences that drew people later identified as terrorists, including Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric convicted of plotting to bomb five New York landmarks.

A former manager of the charity, Tarik Hamdi, was linked to Osama bin Laden's organization during the trial of four men convicted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. A former head of the think tank, Ramadan Abdulah Shallah, left in 1995 and resurfaced as the head of a terrorist organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Al-Arian said he only knew the men as academics, and that their later links to terrorism "shocked" him.

Al-Arian has the right to have an independent arbitrator review his dismissal. He has 10 days to respond to the letter.


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