WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 - In a major defeat for law enforcement officials, a jury in Florida failed to return guilty verdicts Tuesday on any of 51 criminal counts against a former Florida professor and three co-defendants accused of operating a North American front for Palestinian terrorists.
The former professor, Sami al-Arian, a fiery advocate for Palestinian causes who became a lightning rod for criticism nationwide over his vocal anti-Israeli stances, was found not guilty on eight criminal counts related to terrorist support, perjury and immigration violations.
The jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts against him after deliberating for 13 days, and it did not return any guilty verdicts against the three other defendants in the case.
"This was a political prosecution from the start, and I think the jury realized that," Linda Moreno, one of Mr. Arian's defense lawyers, said in a telephone interview. "They looked over at Sami al-Arian; they saw a man who had taken unpopular positions on issues thousands of miles away, but they realized he wasn't a terrorist. The truth is a powerful thing."