Lawyers: Israel coerced confession from Illinois man accused of funding Hamas

Attorneys for a Palestinian man accused of laundering millions of dollars for terrorist activities want prosecutors to be blocked from using a confession he claims he was tortured into making by Israeli authorities.

Muhammad Salah, is charged with taking part in a 15-year racketeering conspiracy to provide money and weapons to Hamas. He and others are accused of using bank accounts in several states to launder money used for murders, kidnappings, assaults and passport fraud.

Salah, who was born in Jerusalem and lived for a while in a Palestinian refugee camp before coming to the United States in 1970, has said he has no connection with Hamas. Salah is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

In motions filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Salah's attorneys argue that Israeli authorities obtained a lengthy 1993 handwritten confession from their client by locking him in a cold, closet-sized cell, threatening his family and having other prisoners beat him, among other tactics.

"What happened to me over the ... months was an ongoing nightmare of unmitigated and unbearable terror, threats, physical and psychological abuse, and sensory and sleep deprivation," Salah said in an affidavit.

The Israeli Consulate in Chicago said the court system in Israel is sensitive to alleged human rights violations and that it appeared that Salah was trying to use his previous arrest to undermine his conviction in Chicago.

"We're not surprised that he would try to muddy the waters," consulate spokesman Robert Schwartz said.

Israeli police arrested Salah in January 1993, alleging he was in the country to funnel money to Hamas leaders in the West Bank. In Monday's motions, Salah said he was in the Middle East to provide humanitarian relief for Palestinians.

Salah eventually pleaded guilty to Israeli charges similar to those he faces in the United States and spent more than four years in prison. But his attorney, Michael Deutsch, said Salah caved in to abusive interrogation tactics.

"I don't think it's possible to hold out," Deutsch said. "Even the strongest person at some point gives in."

Deutsch said Salah even signed statements in Hebrew, which he didn't understand.

Federal prosecutors have until Nov. 7 to respond to the motions to suppress Salah's confession. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declined to comment Monday, AP reported. V.A.

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