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A written confession that was made in Israel and used during the trial of a Palestinian man charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a U.S. federal grand jury on alleged terrorist ties appears the likely foundation for an appeal. Late Friday afternoon a six-man, six-woman jury found Sharif Alwan, 31, guilty of contempt following a two-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago. The jurors deliberated about seven hours during two days. In rendering their guilty verdict, jurors rejected the accused’s affirmative “fear of retaliation” defense. The jury had also apparently relied heavily upon a confession that prosecutors introduced into evidence to help convict Alwan. Afterward, federal prosecutors insisted they had only used the pivotal confession to rebut Alwan’s affirmative defense. But, defense attorneys had a different view of the confession, saying it was coerced and, therefore, simply not useable in an American court of law. “I have serious problems with a forced confession being used for any purpose,” attorney Stanley Hill said. To establish his affirmative defense to the criminal contempt charges, Alwan testified this month that he had been arrested by Israeli security forces in 1995 and had been tortured over a four-month period before writing out a confession of his alleged training by Hamas operatives and other related activities. His refusal to testify before the American grand jury, he insisted, was based on fear of retaliation by the Israelis against either himself or his family members who still live in the West Bank. Alwan, a lawful permanent resident since 1989, has been in federal custody for 15 months for refusing to testify before a U.S. 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. U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar pointed out that Alwan’s confession to the Israelis was “not relevant” to the charge of criminal contempt and his office had not used it during its case in chief — but, rather, only as rebuttal evidence during cross-examination of Alwan. “He claimed the reason he was afraid to testify was retaliation,” Lassar said. “We rebutted that and showed that he was lying.” In commenting on the verdict, Hill also questioned whether the recent violence between Israelis and Palestinians and the bomb attack against the U.S.S. Cole played in how the jury acted. “The events in the world have some impact on all of us, including the jury,” Hill said, “though I’m sure they tried to do their best.” The government was represented at trial by Deputy U.S. Attorney Joan Safford and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Gillogly. Dalal M. Jarad, the name partner in Law Offices of Jarad & Associates, was co-counsel for the defense.

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