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US defendants cleared of Hamas racketeering charges

[JURIST] Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, two of three men indicted in 2004 [press release] by a US federal grand jury on charges of engaging in a 15-year conspiracy of providing funds to Hamas [JURIST news archive], were found not guilty of racketeering Thursday. While the men were exonerated of the most serious crime alleged, they were convicted of lesser charges. Salah, who spent 5 years in an Israeli prison in 1993 after confessing to transporting funds for Hamas, was convicted of obstruction of justice for providing false answers in a civil case involving an American student killed by the terrorist group while in Israel. Ashqar was convicted of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt for his refusal to testify before a federal grand jury after receiving immunity. The third man indicted, Abu Mousa Marzook, is currently living in Syria, and is considered to be a fugitive.

Controversy in the case arose when US District Judge Amy St. Eve [official profile] closed the courtroom [AP report] during the testimony of two Israeli security agents who were called to counter Salah’s claims that his 1993 admission to being in Hamas was false, and the product of Israeli torture during his interrogation [AP report]. In a statement [text] made after Thursday’s ruling, Amnesty International USA [advocacy website], while pleased with the “generally favorable verdict,” remains concerned that “evidence likely obtained by the use of torture even entered the courtroom.” AP has more. AP also offers additional coverage.

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