(CHICAGO, IL, 11/21/07) - The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today expressed dismay at the more than 11 year sentence given to Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar for refusing to testify before a grand jury looking into possible terror financing in the Middle East.
Although a jury earlier acquitted Ashqar, a Palestinian-American and former professor at Washington's Howard University, of all terror-related charges, the federal prosecution sought a life term, a sentence that would not normally be imposed unless he had been convicted of the most serious charge against him.
Before today's sentencing, Ashqar delivered a statement describing the suffering of the Palestinian people and saying he would rather go to prison than "become a traitor or collaborator."
SEE: 11 Years for Hamas Trial Defendant (AP)
"We are dismayed that the judge's sentence apparently ignores Dr. Ashqar's acquittal on the most serious charges and instead reflects a prison term that could only have been imposed if he had actually been convicted of those charges," said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab. "The excessive sentence is not in the spirit of the American justice system."
"This apparently politically-motivated sentence sends the unfortunate message that when American Muslims are involved, a jury's decision may be ignored," said CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Coordinator Christina Abraham.
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director (847) 971-3963 or (312) 212-1520, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Coordinator (312)212-1520, Email: email@example.com