Academic convicted in Hamas bankrolling case

Professor Abdelhaleem Ashqar gets 11 years, fine, for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

Abdelhaleem Ashqar 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Abdelhaleem Ashqar 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
A former professor accused of providing money to Hamas terrorists was sentenced Wednesday to more than 11 years in prison and fined $5,000 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a former associate professor of business at Washington's Howard University, showed no emotion as US District Judge Amy St. Eve imposed the sentence. But several relatives wept openly in the courtroom. Ashqar was convicted earlier this year of criminal contempt and obstruction of justice for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the Palestinian militant movement Hamas on June 25, 2003. But he was acquitted of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy aimed at bankrolling the terrorist group Hamas. Before being sentenced, Ashqar delivered a nearly two-hour passionate statement describing the suffering of Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation and saying he would rather go to prison than divulge the secrets of Palestinian militants. "The only option was to become a traitor or collaborator and that is something that I can't do and will never do as long as I live," he told the court. After sentencing him to 135 months in prison, St. Eve ordered marshals to take Ashqar into custody immediately, saying that it was not clear that he would not flee to avoid serving time. A co-defendant of Ashqar, Muhammad Salah, was sentenced to 22 months in the same case after being convicted of lying under oath in a legal document. He also was acquitted of racketeering.