Skip to comments.Ex-Intel Engineer Maher "Mike" Hawash Charged
Posted on 04/29/2003 3:32:33 PM PDT by Oldie
PORTLAND -Federal prosecutors Monday charged former Intel engineer Maher ``Mike'' Hawash with conspiring to aid Al-Qaida and the Taliban, alleging he collaborated with a group of six Portland residents arrested on terrorism charges last year.
Hawash, who had been held for more than a month without charge as a material witness in a secret government investigation, will be arraigned today in U.S. District Court in Portland.
His detention has sparked sharp debate over the government's use of the material-witness statute in terrorism investigations and over the civil rights of Arab-Americans following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Hawash is a U.S. citizen of Arab descent.
The case of the 38-year-old former Intel employee also has sparked outrage among Hawash's former colleagues, who have started a Web campaign to free him.
The complaint filed Monday charged Hawash with attempting to contribute ``material support and resources'' to Al-Qaida and the Taliban and to ``levy war'' against the United States.
The same charges were made last year against the group known as the ``Portland Six,'' who allegedly tried to travel to Afghanistan in October and November 2001, but never made it there. Their trial is set to begin in October.
Hawash's attorney, Stephen Houze of Portland, said his client plans to fight the charges. Houze said he will request a preliminary hearing requiring prosecutors to present evidence. He also plans to ask for a bail hearing to argue that Hawash should be released.
The complaint consists of a 41-page affidavit by Oregon State Police Trooper Thomas W. McCartney, who is assigned as an investigator to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. McCartney pointed to trips made by Hawash to Hong Kong and China that coincided with visits to those places by five of the six defendants.
The complaint alleges that in October and November 2001 Hawash stayed at the same three hotels in China on the same three occasions as some of the defendants. On Oct. 30, 2001, the complaint says, Hawash shared a hotel room with defendant Jeffrey Leon Battle in Kashgar, in northwestern China.
On Oct. 9, Hawash had turned over the title of the family house in Hillsboro, Ore., to his wife, Lisa. He left the United States through Seattle Oct. 24 and returned Nov. 18. Hawash told his wife that he traveled to China to look for opportunities for his software business, according to the complaint.
The complaint also mentions slips of paper found in the homes of three of the defendants with Hawash's Portland telephone number written on them. Bank records show Hawash wrote a check to defendant Patrice Ford for $105 on Sept. 8, 2001, according to the complaint. In a search of Ford's apartment in October 2002, investigators found a piece of paper that contained the note ``Maher -- 73 owe'' and the names of the other five Portland defendants.
But most of the complaint offered little new evidence and simply restated the government's case against the other six defendants.
The government's move from holding Hawash as a material witness to charging him with crimes was met with criticism.
``It now seems clear they used it as a form of preventative detention while they were taking their sweet time getting their ducks in a row,'' said David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. ``It seems clear he was a suspect at the time he was held as a material witness. If they had probable cause to indict him, they should have indicted him at the time.''
Hawash worked as an Intel employee from 1992 to August 2001, when he was laid off. He performed contract work for Intel from October 2002 until his arrest March 20 in the company parking lot as he arrived for work.
The government's charges amount to ``guilt by association,'' said Steven McGeady, a retired Intel vice president and Hawash's former boss. McGeady runs a Web site dedicated to his release, www.freemikehawash.org. McGeady and two friends of Hawash, Debbie Burke and Rohan Coelho, held an impromptu news conference in front of McGeady's Portland house Monday.
``Obviously we're disappointed, given the weakness of this evidence, that the U.S. Justice Department has decided to move forward,'' McGeady said. ``But we're happy Mike will be able to defend himself publicly.'' McGeady said no new evidence was uncovered despite Hawash's lengthy detention.
``As friends of Mike's, the idea that he would have fought in Afghanistan is absurd,'' McGeady said. ``We continue to stand by him and believe that when it's presented to a grand jury, they'll see through this and fail to indict him.''
Hawash's supporters plan to hold a protest this morning in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.
Supposedly this caused problems between himself and his Christian wife, Lisa.
He was laid off from his job at Intel due to budget reductions but continued to work there on a contract basis, not the most stable of situations for a family already under duress.
It appears to me, with paying off the mortgage and placing the house in Lisa's name, he was walking away but still trying to leave something behind for his children.
I have no doubt he intended Jihad in Afghanistan.
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