Press Release: CAIR-Chicago Dismayed by ‘Excessive’ Ashqar Sentence

(CHICAGO, IL, 11/21/07) – The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today expressed dismay at what it termed the “excessive” eleven-year, three-month sentence given to Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar for the non-violent charges of criminal contempt and obstruction of justice.

Although a jury acquitted Ashqar, 49, of all terrorism 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. The government also sought a similarly excessive sentence in the trial of co-defendant Mohammad Salah after failing to convict him on terrorism charges.

“Dr. Ashqar is a stateless Palestinian professor who struggled against occupation and indignity. The judge herself admitted that Dr. Ashqar never participated, nor intended to participate, in any violent acts,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab. “Americans should be concerned that our justice system would hand him such an excessive sentence.”

The government has faced a series of setbacks in its most prominent cases on alleged terrorism. There have been no convictions related to terrorism in the trials of the Holy Land Foundation, Sami Al-Arian, Muhammad Salah and Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar.

“The continued push for excessive punishments in these cases shows the extent to which the trials are politically-motivated,” 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.

CONTACT: Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director (847) 971-3963 or (312) 212-1520 or Christina Abraham, Civil Rights Coordinator (312) 212-1520

– END –