PORTLAND, Ore. – An Arab-American pleaded innocent Monday to charges he tried to join up with Taliban and Al Qaeda forces fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Maher "Mike" Hawash, 39, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian descent, is charged with conspiracy to levy war and conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda, along with conspiracy to contribute services to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Authorities said Hawash and six others — five men and a woman — were in on the alleged plot. Five of the other suspects are in custody and have pleaded innocent. The sixth remains at large.
Hawash, a self-employed software engineer, is accused of traveling to China in October 2001 with the other men in a failed attempt to enter Afghanistan. The woman is accused of wiring money to the men.
Hawash has said the trip was for business purposes.
He is looking forward to defending himself, said friend and spokesman Steve McGeady.
"At the very minimum," McGeady said, "we'll see that mistakes have been made here."
His trial is set for Oct. 1.