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Federal prosecutors in the case of a Palestinian man charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating activities of a foreign terrorist organization told jurors Thursday not to believe the man’s claims his refusal was based on a fear or harm against him or his family. In the closing arguments of the trial for Sharif Alwan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Gillogly told the jury that Alwan is using the coercion defense — that is, of being harmed by Israeli security forces — as a way to escape the consequences of refusing to testify. “Sharif Alwan is in Chicago, thousands and thousands of miles away from the West Bank,” Gillogly said. “There is no chance of anything happening to him in Chicago.” The jury began its deliberations in the case Thursday afternoon.Alwan, 31, a lawful permanent resident, has been in federal custody for 15 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury on his contacts with Hamas, despite being granted immunity by prosecutors. He was initially charged with civil contempt in July 1999. But in July, Alwan was charged with criminal contempt when once again he refused to tell the grand jury about his alleged connections with Hamas. During the three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo, Alwan testified to being tortured by Israeli security forces for four months in 1995. Afterward, he insisted, he had been forced to write a confession in Arabic saying, in effect, that he had received military training from Hamas, a group identified as a terrorist organization operating in the Middle East against the Israelis. Prosecutors contend Alwan refused to testify to protect the organization.But defense attorney Dalal M. Jarad in her closing statement told the jury that her client was being truthful when he went before the grand jury and said he had no other choice than to not testify to questions on his alleged connection with Hamas. “Those statements made by Alwan express the intensity, urgency and compulsion of the coercion he felt,” said Jarad, the name partner in Law Offices of Jarad & Assoc. “His fear was a barrier to testifying before the grand jury.” If convicted of the criminal contempt charges, Castillo will use his discretion to decide the length of Alwan’s prison term.

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