U. S. Citizen detained as material witness

Boing Boing brings to my attention the case of Maher “Mike” Hawash, a software engineer being held without charges in Oregon. Hawash was detained on the morning of Thursday, March 20, in the parking lot of an Intel facility, where he was working. At the same time, several armed FBI agents awoke Hawash’s wife and children and searched their home.
Hawash is scheduled to receive a hearing on Monday morning, at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland, Oregon.
Hawash has so far been charged with no crime. Palestinian by birth, he’s been a U.S. citizen for over 10 years. At issue here appear to be two contributions Hawash made in 2000 to Global Relief Foundation, an Islamic charity in Illinois that came under FBI scrutiny after the events of September 11. The government suspects Global Relief’s leaders of ties to Al Qaeda and believes that Global Relief channelled funds to terrorist organizers.
I say “appear” because Hawash’s attorney and his family and friends still have no idea why he’s been arrested. Remember, Hawash has not been charged. Futhermore, Hawash’s friends also maintain that Hawash himself had no knowledge of possible links between Global Relief and terrorism and believed Global Relief to be a legitimate charity.
Hawash is being held as a material witness. Although material-witness laws require the government to first obtain a warrant before detaining a material witness, those laws also allow courts to seal those records, which has been done in Hawash’s case. So even though the FBI presented evidence to a judge explaining why they wanted Hawash, that evidence is sealed and unavailable to Hawash’s family.
Detainment is ordinarily supposed to prevent a material witness from fleeing the country, but Hawash’s friends argue that with a wife, children, and a successful career as a software engineer, Hawash has every reason to remain in Oregon.


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