The trial in Chicago continues for Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem al-Ashqar. The two are charged in a federal racketeering indictment with providing money and fresh recruits to Hamas in its terror campaign against Israel. Yesterday began with the testimony of former New York Times reporter, Judith Miller.
Miller was called to testify to refute claims by the defense that statements given by Salah were made under duress and after torture. Miller testified that she decided to research Salah's situation after reading of his arrest in the media. She flew to Israel and was shown documents alledgedly found on Muhammad Salah at the time of his arrest as well as statements that Salah had supposedly made to Israeli agents. Miller said that she was concerned that Salah's statement may have come as a result of torture and refused to write an article unless she met with Salah in person. The Israelis said that was not possible but offered to let her view the interrogation from a room in the prison complex on a television monitor.
Miller testified that when she saw Salah on the screen he appeared calmed, rested, and relaxed as he was sitting at a table in the room reading a book. Miller heard the conversation between Salah and his interrogators over an audio feed and received real time translations courtesy of a translator provider to her by the Israelis. Several times, the interrogator Nadav left the interrogation room and walked into Miller's room, which she said was located only a few feet from her, to ask if there was anything that she wanted him to ask. She replied that she wanted Nadav to conduct his interrogation as normal because she did not want to be part of the interrogation by another government of an American citizen. After witnessing the interrogation for two hours, Miller left the prison complex because she felt she had more than enough corroborating evidence that Salah had not been tortured and decided to proceed with her article. Miller stated that Salah was relaxed, at ease, and very conversational with her interrogators. She concluded her direct examination by stating that she wrote the article of her own free will and did not make any sort of deal write an article in exchange for admittance to the highly secret Israeli Security Agency (ISA) Interrogation facility.
Cross Examination by Lead Attorney for Defendant Salah, Michael Deutsch
Deutsch began his cross-examination of Ms. Miller by asking how she communicated with Nadav, obviously in an attempt to show that the Israeli Agent speaks English. Miller testified that she could not remember exactly since it was thirteen years ago but that she assumes that their communication was conducted through her interpreter. Deutsch attempted to paint Miller's article as a favor to Prime Minister Rabin, whom Miller described as a longtime friend, but Miller reasserted that she would not write the article without seeing Salah for herself. Miller said that in lieu of meeting Salah in person she would agree, after discussing it with her editors, to watch the interrogation on a closed circuit television. Deutsch asked Miller who the editor was that she consulted with and Miller replied that she could not remember saying that she had many editors while with The New York Times, eliciting groans from the largely pro-defense audience. Deutsch asked some questions concerning Miller's February 17, 1993 New York Times article and subsequently Deutsch submitted the article into evidence. Deutsch concluded his cross examination by asking Miller if she was familiar with the term Sayanim, referring usually to Jews living outside of Israel as foreigners who voluntarily assisted Israeli Intelligence, the Mossad in operations. Miller was asked if she has ever acted in this manner and she replied that she had not. Deutsch asked some questions concerning Miller's February 17, 1993 New York Times article and subsequently submitted the article into evidence. Deutsch concluded his cross examination by asking Miller if she was familiar with the term Sayanim, referring usually to Jews living outside of Israel as foreigners who voluntarily assisted Israeli Intelligence, the Mossad in operations, asking Miller if she has ever acted in this manner and she replied that she had not.
Cross Examination by Lead Attorney for Defendant Ashqar, William Moffitt
Moffitt's cross examination was fairly short and started by asking Miller if she considered herself a friend of Israel, to which Miller replied that she was friends with some Israelis. Moffitt also asked if Miller tries to tell both sides of a story to which Miller replied that she does.
Continuation of the Government's Admission of Evidence
The Government continued their case by introducing interviews of Salah and other Hamas activists which were found in the home of Abdelhaleem al Ashqar. These statements, read by FBI Special Agents, contained several pieces of interesting information. One interview discussed the importance of using foreign study grants in order to help smuggle wanted Hamas activists out of the territories. Redacted statements attributed to Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Rumahi were published with redactions of the name and nom de guerre of Abdelhaleem al Ashqar.
Testimony of Bradley Benabidez, FBI Special Agent
The case agent investigating Muhammad Salah for the last three years, Bradley Benabidez testified about particular documents found in the home of Abdelhaleem al Ashqar, including an Israeli indictment of Chicago businessman, Muhammad Jarad, who was arrested with Salah, as well as the summary notes of a meeting between Jarad and Ashqar concerning the events that led up to Salah's arrest. The notes indicate that the two men believed that Salah had not been beaten or tortured, that a hood had been used on him only once, and that he was left in an air conditioned room. The notes also contained comments and recommendations in order to avoid arrests like that of Salah's in the future. One comment was that people in Chicago were angry that Salah was chosen for this mission because of his naiveté. They also were angry that he was privy to so much information about the activities of Hamas that he gave to the Israelis.
Other exhibits were admitted into evidence further showing the relationship that existed between Salah and Ashqar; first being the Social Security application of Ashqar. The application dated November 30, 1989, included the address and phone number of Salah. This was confirmed by a bank signature card signed by Salah on November 10, 1989
The cross examination of Agent Benabidez began at the very end of yesterday's proceedings and continues today.
Cross-posted at Counterterrorism Blog.