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Intel worker accused of aiding terrorists

The Justice Department charges engineer Mike Hawash, who has been in solitary confinement since March 20, with conspiracy to levy war against America and of supporting terror groups.

The Justice Department has charged Intel engineer Mike Hawash, who has been held in solitary confinement since March 20, with conspiracy to levy war against America and of supporting terrorist organizations.

In a 41-page document made public late Monday, the government asserts that Hawash traveled to China in the company of suspected terrorists and attempted to enter Afghanistan so he could fight for the Taliban against the United States in October 2001.

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

The affidavit, prepared by an Oregon state trooper, attempts to tie Maher "Mike" Mofeid Hawash, 38, to a group of six Portland, Ore., residents arrested on terrorism charges last year. It alleges that Hawash traveled to China at the same time they did and shared a guest-house room. It also includes reports from anonymous neighbors saying that Hawash acted more "Eastern" and grew a beard after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

An arraignment in open court, at which time Hawash will be able to plead guilty or not guilty, is scheduled for Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Portland. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are under a gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge Robert Jones.

After Hawash was arrested 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 a Web site and stated 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." A protest is scheduled for Tuesday morning outside the courthouse where his arraignment will take place.

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 and titled "DirectX, RDX, RSX and MMX Technology: A Jumpstart Guide to High Performance APIs."

Until criminal charges were filed Monday, Hawash was held as a "material witness" under a 1984 law that has been used to detain terrorist suspects without the need for prosecutors to charge them with a crime. A Washington Post investigation last fall said the Justice Department has imprisoned at least 44 people, including seven U.S. citizens, under the same law, with some held for many months and possibly over a year.