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Ex-Intel worker sentenced in terrorism case

Former Intel engineer Maher "Mike" Mofeid Hawash, who pleaded guilty to trying to enter Afghanistan to fight against American military forces, gets seven years in prison.

A former Intel engineer who pleaded guilty to aiding terrorist organizations was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison.

Maher "Mike" Mofeid Hawash, a naturalized U.S. citizen, entered a guilty plea last August, admitting to traveling to China with five suspected terrorists and attempting to enter Afghanistan in order to fight against American military forces in 2001.

In addition to sentencing Hawash, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in Portland, Ore., sentenced Ahmed Bilal to 10 years and Muhammad Bilal to eight years. Both were defendants in related cases that prosecutors said together represented a "Portland cell."

"Today's sentences demonstrate the serious consequences of attempting to assist our terrorist enemies in a time of war," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement. "Thanks to the excellent cooperation of state and local law enforcement as well as the diligent work of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, we were able to put those who would harm American soldiers behind bars."

After Hawash was arrested last March and detained for weeks without charges being filed against him, his case became something of a cause celebre online. His friends and former manager at Intel set up the FreeMikeHawash.org Web site, which said: "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 Portland courthouse.

Hawash was born in 1964 in Nablus, in the then-Jordanian-controlled West Bank. He lived in Hillsboro, Ore., with his wife and three children.

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."