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Witness in Hamas Probe Sentenced

March 8, 2001

CHICAGO (AP) _ A Palestinian man was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison for refusing to answer questions from a federal grand jury investigating alleged fund-raising in the United States by the militant group Hamas.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo said Sharif Alwan, 31, ``had the keys to his own freedom the whole time if he had just come in and told the truth.″

Alwan’s attorneys said he would not answer questions because he was afraid he and relatives living in Israel’s West Bank could be tortured by Israeli authorities. The defendant’s father, Ahmad Alwan, 61, said the conviction would be appealed.

Federal prosecutors want to ask Alwan about Mohammad Salah of suburban Bridgeport, a computer analyst for the Quranic Literacy Institute. They say they believe Salah recruited Alwan to join Hamas.

Prosecutors have gone to court in an effort to confiscate from Salah and the institute $1.4 million. They say the money is tied to Hamas.

Salah was arrested in the West Bank in 1993 with $90,000 in U.S.currency he said was for charity. The U.S. government said it was destined for Hamas.

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