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Hamas suspect says Israelis tortured him

US judge is urged to omit confession

CHICAGO -- The lawyer for a Chicago man charged with laundering money for the Palestinian group Hamas told a judge that his client was tortured and beaten into admitting he was part of the organization.

The statements signed by Muhammad Salah should not be allowed as evidence at his trial, set for October, the lawyer, Michael E. Deutsch, argued at a federal court hearing Friday.

Deutsch said Salah would never have signed the statements after his arrest in 1993 if he had not been deprived of sleep by his Israeli captors, made to sit in a tiny chair with a foul-smelling hood over his head, and kept at times in a ''refrigeration cell."

Prosecutors say Salah's statements were made voluntarily and, therefore, meet the standards imposed by the US system of justice for evidence at criminal trials.

They acknowledge that Salah was housed by the Israelis in a prison where inmates pretended to be Hamas leaders and where they got him to write a report on his activities.

Salah's actions included ''recruiting efforts, military training efforts, financing efforts, and other activities," said a prosecutor, Joseph M. Ferguson.

Over defense objections, US District Judge Amy St. Eve has set aside time this week for two Israeli agents to testify in a closed courtroom under assumed names. They are expected to say Salah was not tortured while in their custody.

Salah was born in Jerusalem and moved to the United States in 1970. He is a naturalized American citizen.

He was indicted in August 2004, along with Abdelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar of Alexandria, Va., and Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, believed to be living in Damascus, on charges of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy to provide money for terrorist acts in Israel.

Ashqar and Salah deny the charges. Marzook, who is described by federal officials as the deputy military leader of Hamas, is classified as a fugitive.

Salah was on what he described as a charity mission to Israel in 1993 when he was arrested. He pleaded guilty in 1995 to helping to funnel $650,000 to Hamas, and served almost five years in an Israeli prison.

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