University of Florida professor Sami al-Arian goes on trial today in what is being billed as the most important terrorism case in the United States since September 11.
Prosecutors claim that Dr Arian, and three other Arab-Americans who will be in the dock with him, commanded an Islamic Jihad cell that flourished in Tampa and infiltrated the University of South Florida. The group is said to have helped finance a series of attacks in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel in which more than 100 people died, including at least one American.
However, supporters and lawyers for the Kuwait-born professor claim that it is not a straightforward case of terrorist funding. Instead, they say it raises serious issues about anti-Muslim bias in the US post-September 11, freedom of speech and what they see as a blatant attempt by Israel to silence a powerful Palestinian voice in America.