August 6, 2003 4:30 PM PDT

Ex-Intel worker guilty of aiding terror

A former Intel engineer accused of aiding terrorist organizations pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban.

Maher "Mike" Mofeid Hawash, 38, faces between seven and 10 years in federal prison after admitting that he traveled to China with five suspected terrorists and attempted to enter Afghanistan in order to fight against the United States in 2001, according to the guilty plea.

In the 13-page plea agreement released on Wednesday afternoon, Hawash admitted to the charges brought against him by the Justice Department in April. "Hawash and others in the group were prepared to take up arms as martyrs if necessary to defend the Taliban government in Afghanistan," said the plea agreement, which Hawash signed.

The Justice Department said it expects sentencing to occur next year after the trials of the remaining defendants are complete. The sentence, which will be set by U.S. District Judge Robert Jones, is compounded because the offense took place when the United States was at war.

After Hawash was arrested in March and detained for weeks without charges filed against him, his case became something of a cause celebre online. His friends and former boss at Intel set up the FreeMikeHawash.org Web site and said in response to the criminal charges: "Mike's friends and those who know him think the idea that Mike would have fought for the Taliban or traveled to Afghanistan is absurd. Mike's concerns were for his family in America, his family in Palestine and for his faith." Supporters even held rallies in front of the courthouse.

As a lead engineer on Intel's Multimedia Extensions, or MMX, software team, Hawash worked on the MMX technology emulator and MPEG decoders. In 1997, Addison-Wesley published a book co-authored by Hawash that was titled "DirectX, RDX, RSX and MMX Technology: A Jumpstart Guide to High Performance APIs."

The plea agreement also sets out a $250,000 fine and requires Hawash to cooperate with the government in criminal prosecutions and military tribunals, including legal action against the suspects being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The plea states that Hawash traveled with defendants Patrice Ford, Ahmed Bilal and Muhammad Bilal to China in an attempt to enter Pakistan and then traveled to Afghanistan, but the four men were unsuccessful in obtaining a visa for Pakistan.

Hawash, who was born in 1964 in Nablus, in the then-Jordainian-controlled West Bank, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He had lived in Hillsboro, Ore., with his wife and three children.

 

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