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Israeli Court Finds American Arab Guilty of Membership in Illegal Group

June 8, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Tel Aviv District Court today acquitted Sami Ismail el Quran, a 24-year-old American citizen of Arab origin, of charges of maintaining contact with an enemy agent. The court found him guilty on a second charge of membership in an illegal organization. His sentence, which could be as much as ten years imprisonment, will be announced at a later date.

In the long verdict issued by the three judge bench–Dov Levin, chairman, and Israel Giladi and Nehemya Baer–it was stated that Ismail arrived in Israel in December 1977 to visit his ailing father at EI Birah, a town near Ramallah on the West Bank. He was detained afterwards and for several days was interrogated by security agents. Ismail wrote a seven page confession in English and added two pages in Arabic. Later he was interrogated by a police officer in Arabic and the minutes were presented in Hebrew.

Based on the statements by the defendant the court found that Ismail made contact with a certain Abu Backer in the University of Michigan who suggested that Ismail go to Libya for training all costs being covered by Libya. Ismail was also asked to distribute Arab nationalist pamphlets on the 44,000 student campus.

In August, 1976, Ismail went to Libya where he with 150 others, started training at a camp of the extremist Palestine Liberation Front. There he met one Tayassir Kuba’a, a leader of the PLO who suggested that he go to fight in Lebanon. However, Ismail returned to the U.S. But he did complete the training term. The court decided there was no evidence that Kuba’a was an enemy agent and acquitted Ismail on that count.

The defense, headed by leftist lawyer Felicia Langer, called Robert Berr, a lecturer on electrical engineering at Michigan University, to the stand as a character witness. He said he knew Ismail as an excellent student. He admitted that he knows nothing about Ismail’s friends or his political ideas. Ismail himself told the court that his only crime was that he expressed solidarity with the state-less Palestinians and with other oppressed people. This is not a crime under American law, he said. An American observer attended the hearings on behalf of the U.S. Consulate.

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