updated 5/13/2004 4:30:23 PM ET 2004-05-13T20:30:23

A federal judge on Thursday handed a major blow to a Saudi student accused of terrorism, allowing jurors to see inflammatory Web sites that allegedly had been posted from his home computer.

The government claims the Web sites prove that Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a computer science graduate student at the University of Idaho, used his computer skills to foster terrorism.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled that the evidentiary value of the Web sites, which contain articles extolling suicide bombings in defense of Islam, outweighed their prejudicial value against Al-Hussayen.

“These exhibits are no doubt prejudicial,” Lodge said. But, he added, “the court is not to weigh the evidence,” because that is for the jury.

Defense attorney David Nevin had argued that the material was intended to force jurors to infer without solid proof that Al-Hussayen supported ideas that he says the government believes are unacceptable, but then argued that advocating such opinions is not a criminal act.

He cited an opinion this year from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said, “Advocacy is pure speech protected by the First Amendment.”

But prosecutors argued, and Lodge agreed, that the information showed that Al-Hussayen knew the material was what encourages people to finance terrorist acts and, in some cases, become terrorists. Authorities said records show the material was posted on the Internet from his home computer.

The government has accused the 34-year-old Al-Hussayen of using his computer skills to turn the Web site of the Islamic Assembly of North America in Michigan into the platform for the Internet network encouraging terror. He is also charged with visa fraud and making false statements for allegedly trying to hide his association with the assembly.

If convicted of all charges, he could be sentenced to 240 years in prison. He faces deportation even if his isn’t convicted.

‘These are hateful words’
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Dietch said expert witnesses will testify that information like that provided on the Web sites tied to Al-Hussayen encourages people to support terrorism.

“These are hateful words,” Dietch told Lodge. “What does he do? He provides it to millions of people.”

The defense was strengthened Wednesday when a computer expert testified that others may have used Al-Hussayen’s home computer.

“I saw during my process evidence of use of the system, which could have been by another person,” Curtis Rose testified.

The government has spent much of the past two weeks trying to show that Al-Hussayen was responsible for Web site content that included letters extolling suicide bombings in defense of Islam. Rose, a former Army counterintelligence specialist now working for The Sytex Group Inc. in Doylestown, Pa., was the last of those witnesses.

He did not elaborate on who other than Al-Hussayen could have used the home computer confiscated when Al-Hussayen was arrested at his Moscow, Idaho, home on Feb. 26, 2003.

Rose also said Al-Hussayen’s computer was used to post information about suicide bombings on one Web site in May 2001 but that the material was simply copied from other sources.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments