May 29, 2009
Democracy Now!

The Holy Land Foundation Trial: Justice Denied

Five founders of the Holy Land Foundation, once the nation's largest Muslim charity, have received prison terms of up to sixty-five years on charges of supporting the Palestinian group Hamas. The five were never accused of supporting violence and were convicted for funding charities that aided needy Palestinians. The government's case relied on Israeli intelligence as well as disputed documents and electronic surveillance gathered by the FBI over a span of fifteen years. . . .

AMY GOODMAN: Nancy Hollander, you're the attorney for the former Holy Land CEO, Holy Land Foundation CEO Shukri Abu Baker. Just looking at the time line for the whole Holy Land case: you have January '89, the organization that was renamed Holy Land Foundation is founded by Noor's father, Ghassan Elashi, and others to assist Palestinians affected by the Intifada, '89; 1992, Holy Land moves its headquarters to Richardson, Texas; '95, the US government declares Hamas a terrorist organization; '99, the government says it's investigating alleged financial ties between Holy Land and Hamas dating back to 1996. Explain this and what evidence the government presented on the connection between Holy Land and Hamas.

NANCY HOLLANDER: Well, the government's allegations - and this is extremely important, Amy - the government's allegations all along and what the jury found was that Holy Land provided charity. Every dime went to charity. It went through sometimes directly to individuals and sometimes through charity committees, which are called Zakat committees. This is part of Islamic law that Muslims must tithe, and they often do it through these committees. These committees are throughout the Muslim world and in Palestine. And Holy Land gave money, large sums of money, to these Zakat committees in all these local communities, and then that was distributed to individuals, mostly orphans or families in need.

There was never any allegation that any money went any where other than to charity. The government's position was that these particular charities were associated with or controlled by Hamas. And it's important to understand that the United States government, through USAID, continued to give money to the same charities for years after Holy Land was closed. But that's what the allegation was all the way along. Although the government spent a great deal of time in the trial talking about and showing the jury horrific pictures of violent acts that Hamas did, our clients were not accused of nor convicted of one single act of violence.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what they were convicted of.

NANCY HOLLANDER: They were convicted of providing material support to Hamas, which includes, under the US statutes, providing charity to associations and organizations that are associated with or controlled by Hamas. The issue of whether these particular charities were controlled by Hamas, we believe to this day that they were not. And the only evidence that they were came from a secret witness from Israel who claimed to be a lawyer with the Israeli Shin Bet, but we were never able to learn anything about him, because he was presented with a pseudonym, and we weren't allowed to know anything about him.

AMY GOODMAN: The Shin Bet being the Israeli intelligence.

NANCY HOLLANDER: Yes, yes, correct. And that's where they got the information.

The government also claimed that by providing charity, Holy Land was assisting Hamas in winning the hearts and minds of the people. There was no evidence of that, of course. And Holy Land was closed in 2001. And although the government tried to make the leap to Hamas winning a large number of seats in the election in 2006, that was five years later. And the government never had an answer, during trial or at sentencing when we brought this up, to explain that USAID gave money, for example, $47,000 to the Qalqilya Zakat Committee in December of 2004, . . .


First they came . . .

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.

Joe W. (Chip) Pitts III, "Tough Patriot Act Followed by 40 Nations," Washington Post, September 14, 2003

David Cole, "Court Decision Strips Foreigners' Rights," Mercury News, June 19, 2006

"The Holy Land Foundation Trial: The Family's Perspective," Freedom to Give

[The ACLU's research shows that U.S. terrorism financing policies and practices are seriously undermining American Muslims' protected constitutional liberties and violating their fundamental human rights to freedom of religion, freedom of association, and freedom from discrimination.--"Report: Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity," ACLU, June 16, 2009]

Stephen Lendman, "Targeting Muslim Charities in America,", November 23, 2009

[In this petition, the defense team states that the HLF case "presents the perfect opportunity for the court to determine whether or under what circumstances the prosecution can present anonymous witnesses."

They are referring to the prosecution's star witness, an Israeli intelligence officer who testified under the false name of "Avi," making it the first time in American history that an expert witness was allowed to testify using a pseudonym.--Noor Elashi, "Last legal recourse for Holy Land Five,", October 24, 2012]

Allison Deger, Adam Horowitz and Annie Robbins, "'This is travesty of American criminal justice': Supreme Court denies Holy Land Five appeal,", October 29, 2012

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