Tortured Palestinian set free
- Salah cleared of terrorism charges
The Daily Southtown
1 February 2006
In a legal victory that left him crying tears of joy,
Mohammed Salah today was acquitted of federal racketeering
charges alleging he was a high-ranking operative of the
militant Palestinian group Hamas. He was convicted of far
lesser charges of obstruction of justice.
Emerging from the courtroom just after the verdict was
announced, Salah shook hands with anyone who approached
"We are pleased. We just have to thank our lawyers and
everyone else," Salah said, choking up. "I have to thank
everyone who helped my family put food on the table."
"We are not terrorists," Salah told reporters as he
carried his son, Ibrahim, on his shoulders.
Salah's defense attorney said he hoped the judge would
grant Salah probation on the remaining counts.
Defense attorneys declared victory in the three-month
trial that the government had described as a major
component in its war on terrorism.
"This is a great day for justice," said defense attorney
Michael E. Deutsch, who represented Mohammed Salah.
Salah, 53, of Bridgeview, and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 48, a
one-time assistant business professor at Howard University
in Washington, had been accused of laundering money for
Hamas terrorists fighting to topple the Israeli
Defense attorneys portrayed the men as freedom fighters,
comparing them to Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and the Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Salah was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving
false answers to questions he was asked in a civil
lawsuit. Ashqar was convicted of criminal contempt and
obstruction of justice for refusing to testify before a
federal grand jury when he had been given immunity for
anything he might say.
The jury delivered the verdict amid heavy security in the
courtroom after deliberating for 14 days.
"We've convicted them -- it's hard to say that we're
disappointed," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro
Salah was accusing of being a high-ranking military
operative of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which
is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Ferguson, in closing
arguments, said Salah helped Hamas spread "death,
destruction and terror." The group's stated goal is the
eradication of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic
Salah and Ashqar were charged in a racketeering scheme to
support Hamas by committing crimes in America, including
money laundering, obstruction of justice and passport
fraud. Ferguson said the fact the vast majority of the
duo's alleged Hamas activity came in the early 1990s --
before the group officially was designated a terrorist
organization by the U.S. government -- is irrelevant.
"It has always been illegal in the United States to
provide assistance to a murderous enterprise -- always,"
Ferguson said in his closing arguments.
In an impassioned plea for an acquittal, Deutsch urged
jurors to ignore Salah's alleged confessions of terrorist
activity and consider the plight of displaced Palestinians
when they ponder Salah's fate.
After telling jurors he's Jewish, Deutsch condemned
Israel's "brutal and genocidal occupation" of what once
His voice cracking with fatigue and emotion three hours
into his speech, he concluded by praising Salah and his
"BY no stretch of the imagination is he a terrorist or
involved with terrorism " Deutsch croaked at the jurors.
"I know you won't let this happen. I know you believe in
The case against Salah was centered on a series of
incriminating statements he gave Israeli intelligence
agents after his checkpoint arrest in January 1993. Salah
has since claimed he was tortured into making the
statements and maintains he delivered money in the
Occupied Territories only for charitable purposes.
Prosecutors contended Salah was sent abroad to resurrect
the Hamas military structure after the mass deportation of
hundreds of suspected Palestinian militants to Lebanon in
late 1992. They pointed to the pricey, last-minute
airplane ticket he bought as proof he was on a military
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