A man charged with refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 49, was sentenced on November 21, 2007, by a U.S. District Court in Chicago. Ashqar, of Alexandria, Virginia, was convicted of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury in 2003, even after he had been granted immunity from prosecution.
Ashqar, a former professor of business at Washington’s Howard University, reportedly delivered a nearly two-hour speech before being sentenced, expressing his passion for the Palestinian people and saying he would rather go to jail than give up the secrets of Palestinian militants. After his speech, the judge reportedly stated that Ashqar’s refusal to testify exemplified his desire to “promote terrorism.”
In February, when Ashqar and a co-defendant, Muhammad Salah of Illinois, were convicted of the obstruction charges, they were acquitted of racketeering conspiracy in support of Hamas’s terrorist campaigns in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Salah was sentenced to 22 months in prison for lying about his ties to Hamas. Abu Mousa Marzook, the Deputy Head of Hamas, was also charged in the case. He is a fugitive believed to be living in Syria.
During the trial, prosecutors provided telephone records of Ashqar communicating with Hamas leaders.
In the defense’s sentencing brief, Ashqar’s attorney reportedly used passages from Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book The Israel Lobby, which makes sinister claims about Israel and the Israel lobby’s influence on American foreign policy. The brief also reportedly argued that Ashqar’s refusal to testify was justified by Israel’s oppressive actions toward Palestinians.
Sharif Alwan, another witness who refused to testify against Hamas in the same investigation, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2000.