Seven years for US Taliban volunteer

A former software engineer who admitted trying to fight US troops in Afghanistan has been given a seven-year jail sentence after apologising to a court.

    The Taliban were toppled by the United States in November 2001

    Mahir "Mike" Hawash, 39

    , said on Monday he regretted his actions.

    "I wish to ask

    forgiveness from my family for the pain I have caused them, and

    to my friends, my friends in the community and in the United

    States," he said.

    Mahir, a Palestinian Muslim from the West Bank, and two

    Muslim brothers from Oregon agreed to cooperate in a case in

    which six men were convicted of trying to link up

    with Taliban forces

    .

    Hawash was held for weeks without charges after his arrest

    in March 2003, prompting supporters to stage rallies, write to

    officials and put up a website demanding he should be released or

    charged.

    'Good character'

    There were no crowds or demonstrations at Monday's

    sentencing, but several of his staunchest supporters submitted

    letters to the court attesting to his good character.

    A letter from Mahir's wife Lisa called the event "an

    aberration in his otherwise good and generous life. I can look

    into his eyes and see the sadness and remorse. It is truly

    genuine".

    Hawash, a US citizen for 15 years and apparently a model

    suburban dad, told the court he is proud to be an

    American, recalling his pride when he voted in his first

    election.

    He attributed his crime to religious and emotional

    confusion in the highly charged times after the hijack attacks

    on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, but

    added, "I do not blame anybody but myself".

    The US accused the Taliban of
    harbouring Usama Bin Ladin

    Judge Robert E Jones

    noted that one

    of his court officers was a US military pilot in Afghanistan

    when the group tried to enter the country.

    Jail sentences

    "You might have killed my extern sitting right here," Jones

    said, "That is a very, very serious act."

    Two other defendants - Ahmad Bilal, 25, and his brother Muhammad Bilal, 23 - 

    received 10 and eight-year sentences respectively on Monday.

    They did not speak to the court.

    Patrice Lumumba Ford and Jeffrey Leon

    Battle previously received 18-year sentences.

    Battle's wife October Martinique Lewis stayed behind and

    wired the group money. She previously received a three-year

    sentence as part of a plea deal.

    Meanwhile, a final

    suspect, Habis al-Saub, a Jordanian with US permanent

    resident status and the only foreigner in the group, remains at

    large.

    Afghanistan attack

    Government officials believe al-Saub was later killed in

    Afghanistan.

    The United States attacked Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government nearly one month after the 11 September 2001 attacks

    .

    The Bush administration accused the Afghan government of harbouring

     Usama bin Ladin - the man it accused of masterminding the strikes.


    Muslims around the world were incensed by America's attack on the Islamic nation, and many volunteered to defend Afghanistan against the assault.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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