By Associated Press | April 29, 2003
Federal authorities charged a seventh Portland-area software engineer with plotting to aid al-Qaida and Taliban forces fighting U.S. soldiers a month after the 2001 terrorist attacks.Maher Hawash, 39, was charged Monday with conspiracy to levy war and two counts of conspiring to provide material support to the two groups. He has been in custody as a material witness since late March.
The Justice Department said Hawash was part of a Portland-based group with six other suspects who have already been charged in the alleged plan.
"In a nutshell, Hawash was charged as a co-conspirator with the other six," said U.S. District Judge Robert Jones, who is handling the case.
Hawash appeared in court Tuesday and Jones scheduled a preliminary hearing or arraignment hearing for Monday.
About 50 of Hawash's friends and co-workers at chipmaker Intel gathered outside the court to protest what they called the unfair charges against him. "Mike, We believe in your innocence," read a sign held by Daniel Moss.
Hawash's attorney, Stephen Houze, did not return calls seeking comment.
Hawash flew to Hong Kong on Oct. 24, 2001, where he joined up with five of the other defendants: Jeffrey Battle, Patrice Ford, Habis Abdullah Al Saoub and brothers Ahmed and Muhammad Bilal, according to the Justice Department.
Another suspect, October Martinique Lewis, stayed in Portland and wired information and more than $2,000 to Battle, her ex-husband, as he tried to join the Taliban, according to last year's indictment.
Of the six other suspects, all are in custody except for Al Saoub, whose whereabouts are unknown.
The new complaint charges that Hawash traveled with the other defendants to western China and to Beijing with the intention of entering Afghanistan. Hawash and the other defendants allegedly stayed at the same hotels in China on at least three occasions.
Hawash returned to the United States in November 2001 after failing to enter Afghanistan, the complaint says. He has said the purpose of his trip to China was related to his personal software business.
Friends say Hawash is a Palestinian who became a U.S. citizen 15 years ago. He has worked at Intel since 1992, first as an employee and then as a contractor.
His friends speculated that he was arrested as agents looked into a 2000 contribution of more than $10,000 he made to the Global Relief Foundation, an Islamic charity later investigated for possible financial links to terrorism.
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