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Friends say FBI holding software contractor
by William McCall
4 April 2003
Boston Globe

HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) -- An Arab-American software engineer at Intel Corp. was seized by armed FBI agents and has been jailed in solitary confinement for two weeks without charges, friends say.

"They haven't even questioned him once in the entire two weeks," said Steven McGeady, a former Intel executive who was Maher Hawash's boss.

Hawash is being held as a material witness under a federal law that lets the government detain people expected to testify before a grand jury.

The government won't give any details publicly about the case, including when a grand jury will convene or when Hawash will appear. His attorneys can't discuss the matter because of a federal gag order. His wife, Lisa, won't talk about it because she fears repercussions.

But his friends are talking for her, demanding the release of the Palestinian-American who became a US citizen 15 years ago. He has worked at Intel since 1992, first as an employee and then as a contractor.

His friends speculate that agents are looking 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.

Hawash, 38, also sends money to many relatives in the West Bank, including his mother. None are involved in Middle East politics, friends said.

His supporters are hiring lawyers and raising money to pay the bills for his wife and children. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, has sent a letter to the state's chief federal prosecutor asking why Hawash is being held.

For now, he remains in federal custody, allowed an hour of exercise a day, with strip searches every time he leaves and reenters his cell, his friends say.

Harvard University law professor Phil Heymann said material witness detentions have increased since the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001. The laws were intended only to ensure testimony, not to hold people indefinitely, he said.

"Under this interpretation, any one of us could easily be treated as a material witness -- anybody who is suspected of anything. It could be the slightest of suspicion," Heymann said.

The Justice Department has declined to release figures on witness detentions linked to terrorism investigations. The Washington Post interviewed defense attorneys around the nation and found at least 44 people being held by the federal government -- an unprecedented number, Heymann said.

The American Bar Association opposes lengthy detentions, saying witnesses who are citizens have a constitutional right to face a judge quickly.

Copyright © 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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