« New Amnesty International report on lethal injection | Main | New article examining incapacitation innovations »

October 5, 2007

A life sentence for contempt?

This article from the New York Sun spotlights a remarkable sentencing recommendation coming from the feds in a high-profile terrorism-related case:

Federal prosecutors are urging that a Palestinian Arab activist spend the rest of his life in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Hamas links in America.

Earlier this year, a jury in Chicago convicted Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 49, of contempt of court and obstruction of justice. However, jurors acquitted Ashqar of participating in a racketeering conspiracy to support Hamas, a terrorist group responsible for a string of bombings and other attacks that killed hundreds in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Despite the jury's decision to acquit Ashqar on the most serious charge, prosecutors filed a legal brief Wednesday arguing that a probation officer's recommendation of a life sentence for contempt was "correctly calculated."

"Defendant Ashqar remains defiant, and to this day keeps locked within himself information and evidence directly relating to the domestic and international support network through which the Hamas terrorist organization perpetuated its long reign of terror, and in the process has allowed the directors and facilitators of that reign of terror to evade … legal sanction," the prosecution team from the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wrote.  "That defiance reflects defendant Ashqar to be a continuing threat who is not capable of rehabilitation."

There is no statutory limit to Ashqar's sentence because he was convicted of criminal contempt, a crime for which Congress has set no maximum punishment.  Other alleged Hamas activists who lied to or defied courts have received sentences of a year or two in prison. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

October 5, 2007 at 07:17 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A life sentence for contempt?:


Talk about 8th Amendment issues. Also, the whole point of trying to compel someone to testify is that you don't know what information they hold inside. This is yet another poster child for the injustice of punishing acquitted conduct.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Oct 5, 2007 4:54:32 PM

What about a life sentence for Mel Ignatow for perjury?

A life sentence for this animal seems about right. Or better yet, a 30 year sentence with deportation to some hell-hole after he does his time. People who help Hamas by abusing our legal process deserve severe punishment. Hamas kills innocent people.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 5, 2007 10:15:37 PM

Deportation is not actually a criminal punishment. Moreover, the executive has entered into a treaties which prevents it from deporting people to places where they can be tortured. There has been no effort to withdraw from these treaties, and the current administration has complied with them, therefore, in our county, your views have been rejected. Perhaps president Hillary will be more receptive to them if you were able to state them with clarity. In the unlikely alternative that Hillary doesn't win, you can write President Obama a letter expressing your views.

Refusing to talk is not "abusing" the legal system. Nor is defending oneself in trial. The legal system is quite capable of defending itself against "abuse" without having to resort to the illegal activities you propose.

Posted by: S.cotus | Oct 6, 2007 7:16:19 PM

I don't want him to be tortured, just sent to live out his days alone with no family. Like what happens to murderers here who serve 30 years and get sent to the country of their birth--they have nothing, and it is a fate worse than incarceration.

And S.cotus, you're slipping, with certain exceptions not relevant here, the sovereign is entitled to every man's evidence. He is abusing the system and hindering prosecution of beastly foes. It may not concern you, S.cotus, but Hamas has killed Americans.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 7, 2007 12:41:41 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB