[Ppnews] Muhammad Salah trial hears tapes of 1993 Philadelphia meeting
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 17 08:33:33 EST 2006
Hamas-case jury hears tapes of 1993 Philadelphia meeting
By Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporter
November 17, 2006
A federal judge Thursday refused to stop the trial of two men accused
of activities supporting the militant Islamic Palestinian group
Hamas, rejecting their attorneys' argument that an organization's
meeting should be protected by the 1st Amendment.
Lawyers for Muhammad Salah of Bridgeview and Abdelhaleem Ashqar of
Virginia moved for a mistrial after prosecutors began playing secret
recordings of a 1993 meeting known as "the Philadelphia conference."
The gathering saw 20 supporters of Hamas, including Ashqar,
discussing strategies for handling "the movement" in America and ways
to influence the global perception of the Palestinian cause. The
meeting was called after the Oslo peace accords between the Palestine
Liberation Organization and Israel threatened to marginalize the organization.
Defense lawyers said the meeting, and what was discussed there,
should be considered free speech.
"It is simply not illegal under our system of justice to have a
disagreement about the Oslo peace agreement," said Ashqar's attorney
William Moffitt. "It's an appropriate 1st Amendment activity."
Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton argued that was a view that
jurors should hear in closing arguments, and U.S. District Judge Amy
St. Eve said she already has ruled that the jury can hear the tapes.
She denied the motion without making extensive comments.
Hamilton played for jurors a number of recorded talks made at the
meeting. Salah's arrest in Israel early that year was mentioned, and
media accounts of his alleged funding activities were dismissed as exaggerated.
Ashqar spoke in discussion groups about the goal of derailing the
Oslo accords and gave a presentation about media goals. Those who
attended could be heard saying they should be careful discussing
Hamas, instead saying it backward as "Samah" or "sister Samah."
They discussed how Hamas was expected to be classified as a terror
organization by the U.S. government, and decided to try to thwart
that designation by organizing a generic Palestinian group as a cover.
In his presentation, Ashqar could be heard discussing how to use the
media to shape public opinion. He also discussed the arrest of Salah
at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank for funding the
organization, saying it should be seen as a call for more precision
and caution in operations.
Just because someone holds a U.S. passport, they are "not above the
reach of law," he says on the recording.
Ashqar could be heard saying that the Oslo accords could weaken the
movement and make things harder for its leaders.
"Your actions are now terrorism and not a resistance," he said. He
also could be heard discussing "charity work," which he said should
include providing sustenance to the imprisoned and the "families of martyrs."
In his cross-examination of an FBI agent who read some of the
transcripts of the recordings, defense attorney Keith Spielfogel
pointed out that the meeting took place in a hotel where attendees
registered in their own names.
jcoen at tribune.com
Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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