Chicago Hamas Trial Update
by Steven Emerson
December 7, 2006
HAMAS Financier Takes Stand For Prosecution
Mohammed Shorbagi, a Mosque leader in Rome, Georgia who pled guilty to providing financial support to Hamas earlier this year, testified for the prosecution at the end of November in the case of alleged Hamas operatives Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem Al Ashqar. FBI agents discovered Hamas documents in the Shorbagi's home which were sent to him by Ashqar in 1995. When asked by the prosecution about Ashqar's role as head of the Al Aqsa Educational Fund (AAEF), Shorbagi replied that the Ashqar's responsibility was "to work toward the destruction of Israel."
Shorbagi also testified about the role of Sheikh Jamil Hamami, listed as Hamas co-conspirator number five in the indictment (acrobat). Hamami was a West Bank-based Hamas leader who traveled to the United States to raise money for Hamas through the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and AAEF, and met with Ashqar in Mississippi. Shorbagi also attested to his contacts at the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), another Hamas front organization in the U.S.
During cross examination, defense attorneys attempted to discredit Shorbagi, accusing him of being an unreliable witness who lied to the FBI several times in the past. Michael Deutsch, lead attorney for Muhammad Salah, asked Shorbagi about the interrogation methods employed by the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Service). Shorbagi claimed that his cousin had once been tortured by the Shin Bet saying, "I don't remember specifics, but I do know there was some torture," a comment which elicited commotion from Salah's supporters in the courtroom.
Former State Department Official Testifies For Prosecution
The next witness for the government was Robert Seibold, a former employee of the U.S. State Department who worked in head of the American Citizen Services Section in Jerusalem. Seibold testified that on March 19, 1993, he made a consular visit to Salah in his Ramallah prison. Salah complained of backaches to Seibold and relayed several messages that he wished to be sent to his family but did not say anything about any type of torture.
Court was recessed until this morning, with Seibold again taking the stand for cross examination.