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And what of Bayan Elashi?

Bayan Elashi and his brothers - Ghassan, Basman and Hazim - were arrested on 18 December 2002 on charges of dealing illegally with a senior Hamas operative, Mousa abu Marzook, and of illegally exporting computer equipment and technology to Libya and Syria - described by US officials as state sponsors of terrorism. A fifth brother, Ihsan Elashi, was already in prison for export violations at the time of the arrests.

They were held up as an example of the American authorities stamping down on domestic Islamic terrorism, with the Attorney General John Ashcroft himself making a statement on their arrest. Even the FBI director Robert Mueller spoke to reporters about the case, saying it had "relied upon an array of intelligence and law enforcement initiatives and tools that have characterized our post 9/11 efforts".

They have been charged with 46 counts, ranging from export violations to making false statements to money laundering to the most serious, dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist. If convicted, they could be sentenced to maximum penalties of 10 years in prison on illegal export charges, 10 to 20 years for money laundering, 10 years for dealing in the property of a designated terrorist, and five years in prison for making false statements. Read the entire lawsuit here [pdf].

They appeared in court on 6 October 2003 and a trial started this month in Dallas, Texas. The current trial is only over the export violation charges (laid out in full here [pdf]) and the brothers' defence is that they were tricked by a Libyan businessman into selling computer equipment to Libya, when they thought it was only going to Malta. The government says it has evidence otherwise. The case should end in the next week.

The trial regarding the charge that they helped a known terrorist - Mousa Abu Marzook, the ex-head of Hamas' political bureau and their cousin's husband - will begin in September. ®

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