Jury selection begins in US Hamas aide trial

October 13, 2006 05:40

Jury selection began in the trial of two men charged with bankrolling terrorism aimed at toppling Israel's government. Muhammad Salah, 53, from suburban Bridgeview, and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 48, of Alexandria, Virginia, are charged with operating a 15-year racketeering conspiracy to supply the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas with money to carry out a campaign of murders and kidnappings. Salah was arrested by Israeli soldiers in January 1993 at a checkpoint as he sought to leave the Gaza Strip. The same day, agents found $97,000 in cash in his room at a hotel in East Jerusalem. Under interrogation, he admitted that he had visited Hamas military leaders and distributed money to them. He pleaded guilty and served five years in Israeli prisons. The statements he made in Israel 12 years ago now are a key part of the evidence against Salah. The agents who interrogated him are expected to testify at the new trial - in a courtroom cleared of spectators while wearing disguises and using aliases.

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