More on Chicago Hamas Trial
by Steven Emerson
November 17, 2006
The trial of Chicago area resident Muhammad Salah and northern Virginian Abdelhaleem al-Ashqar, continued with direct examination of FBI Special Agent Jill Pettorelli. Pettorelli was asked to read what appears to be internal Hamas documents. The documents were photographed by the FBI during a search of defendant Ashqar's home in Oxford, Mississippi on December 26, 1993.
One document, entitled Political Strategic Feature of the Hamas, dated March 2, 1992, discussed aspects of the Hamas response to the Madrid Conference in 1991. One article outlined the need to expose "the danger of peace movements and of making peace with the enemy" and the need to "cement relations with the Lebanese and Palestinian Hizballah." Drafts of working papers on relations between Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) were also submitted into evidence.
Another document was a chart, originally in Arabic, containing the headers: Goal, Means of Implementation, Time, Execution Front, and Follow-up Front. Most of the items listed under Goals pertained to communications, including the opening of PO Boxes abroad and purchasing fax machines to be used for communication between Hamas leaders in Gaza and the United States. Defendant Ashqar was listed under Follow-up Front and Execution Front on these tasks respectively. Another section of this chart listed under Goal, "send money from abroad to the internal offices." Ashqar was listed as the Follow-up Front for this task.
A Special Investigator with the US Attorney's Office was called to testify about defendant Salah's finances from October 1992 to January 1993. During that time, $985,000 was deposited into Salah's account by Mousa Abu Marzook, a Syria based Hamas leader and former northern Virginia resident, and one of his personal secretaries, Nasser al-Khatib. Upon Salah's arrest, his wife opened a new account and withdrew $542,859.19, depositing it into her new account.
Submitted into evidence were bank accounts held by a variety of different individuals, among them, Abdelhaleem al-Ashqar, Muhammad Salah, Muhammad Adlouni, Muhammad Jarad, Marzook, Muin Shabib, Muhammad al-Islamiyya, Nasser al-Khatib, Elbarrasse, Muhammad el-Khodrey, Nasser Mushtaha, Ziad Hamdan, Yousef Salah, Mahmoud al-Rumahi, Waleed Ibrahim, Azita Salah, A Alaa Abdul Wahhab, and an organization known as Al Mujamaa al-Islami. One of these men, Waleed Ibrahim, testified yesterday. Ibrahim, who changed his name to Waleed Ottman, was a Chicago-area currency exchanger who helped Muhammad Salah cash $50,000 worth of checks in Ramallah in September and October 1992. Ottman testified that while he was visiting family members in Ramallah, Salah came to his home and asked for help to start a taxi and rental car business. Ottman advised Salah to write ten $5,000 checks, rather than one $50,000 check, to avoid attracting suspicion from financial authorities in the United States. Lawyers for Muhammad Salah contend that since all of the checks involved were in Salah's real name, he must have been using the money for a legal purpose, such as building schools, orphanages, and hospitals.
1993 Philadelphia Conference
Transcripts of phone calls were read by government attorneys which referenced the infamous 1993 Philadelphia conference. Phone calls between defendant Ashqar and several prominent heads of American organizations, included Shukri Abu Baker, former head of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLFRD) and Omar Ahmed, incorporator and former Chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who also served as the former president of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). The three men discussed who to invite to the Philadelphia conference (according to an FBI action memorandum analyzing wiretaps of that meeting: "The overall goal of the meeting was to develop a strategy to defeat the Israeli/Palestinian peace accord, and to continue and improve their [HAMAS] fund-raising and political activities in the United States...")
Several minutes were spent discussing whether or not to extend an invitation to Muhammad Jarad, a Chicago area resident who was arrested in Israel at the same time as Salah, but was released six months later. Shukri Abu Baker had reservations about inviting Jarad because he was worried that Jarad might still be under surveillance.