By Stephen Lendman
On January 25, 1995, Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12947 – Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process.
The same year, Hamas was declared a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). It’s still one today, so any individual or group charged with providing it material support (true or false) is prosecuted unjustly.
On December 4, 2001, the Treasury Department declared the Holy Land Foundation a terrorist group, froze its assets, and falsely claimed it was used to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas.
Truth and justice are endangered in America. During Bush’s eight years, their legitimacy and importance were targeted. Under Obama, they’re on the chopping block for elimination to advance Washington’s global imperium unchallenged.
Until shut down, the HLF was America’s largest Muslim charity. Founded in 1989 in Culver City, CA, it shifted operations to Richardson, TX. It provides vital relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan as well as aid for needy recipients in Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey and America.
With an annual budget of about $14 million, it “provided continuous volunteering and services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”
Its major activities included:
– financial aid to needy and impoverished families;
– a sponsorship program for orphaned children;
– various social services;
– educational services;
– medical and other emergency work; and
– community development, including help to rebuild Palestinian homes Israel destroyed lawlessly in violation of international law.
In its own words, it said:
“We gave: books, not bombs; bread, not bullets; smiles, not scars; toys, not tanks; peace, not terror; liberty, not poverty; hope, not despair; love, not hate; (and) life, not death.”
Its principles and other employees were heroes, not terrorists or involved in conspiracy to commit it. Nonetheless, the five principles were charged, prosecuted and convicted. They received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years.
Attorney Nancy Hollander represented HLF President and CEO Shukri Abu Baker. She said he “was convicted of providing charity. There was not, in ten years of wiretapping his home, his office, looking at his faxes, listening to everything he said, there was not one word out of his mouth about violence to anyone or about support for Hamas.”
Post-9/11, crimes are what prosecutors call criminal. Innocence doesn’t matter. Victims are guilty by accusation. Justice is denied for political advantage. Muslims are America’s target of choice. It’s the wrong time here to practice Islam.
It’s also criminal to feed hungry Muslim children and provide them other humanitarian aid. Imperial America wants them vilified to justify global war on terror crimes.
As a result, co-founder, President and CEO Shukri Abu Baker received 65 years in prison.
– Co-founder, Chairman and former Executive Director Ghassan Elashi also got 65 years.
– Mohammed el-Mezain, former Chairman, Head of California Operation 15 years.
– Top fundraiser Mufid Abdulqader 20 years, and
– Abdulrahman Odeh, Director of HLF East (New Jersey) 15 years.
On October 19, 2010, attorneys submitted a 149-page brief. It provided convincing evidence of wrongful convictions. Appellate issues raised include:
(1) Names of two prosecutorial witnesses were withheld from defense attorneys, including its key one. Doing so violated Fifth Amendment due process rights and the Sixth Amendment’s right of a defendant to confront accusers.
(2) The district court allowed prejudicial hearsay evidence. One source admitted sending money to Hamas. He also defrauded his employer of $610,000 in a scam unrelated to HLF. Moreover, he cheated on his taxes and lied to the FBI. As part of a plea bargain, he agreed to lie again under oath – against innocent HLF principles.
(3) The court allowed irrelevant prejudicial evidence to be presented. It included alleged Hamas suicide bombing exhibits, killing Israeli collaborators, a video showing demonstrators stomping on and burning the American flag, and more. All of it was unrelated to the case.
(4) Irrelevant prejudicial testimonies were also allowed, including erroneous legal and religious opinions.
(5) At the same time, the court denied defense attorneys the right to review government recorded, intercepted, or otherwise gotten statements, based on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authority.
FISA, in fact, is classic police state tyranny. It violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. It also requires warrants to be judicially sanctioned, based on clear probable cause.
However, using undisclosed (likely manufactured) secret evidence, FISA permits unrestricted warrantless spying, data mining, and intercept of domestic and foreign Internet, telephone, and other communications, based on alleged national security threats.
As a result, it permits illegal searches, seizures, and privacy invasions. Anyone now for real or concocted reasons may be charged, convicted and imprisoned for alleged crimes they never conceived, planned or committed.
Based on Sixth Amendment issues, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) submitted an amicus brief for HLF defendants.
In part, it states:
“If the Confrontation Clause means anything, it is that a criminal defendant must be allowed to know his accusers (to) have a fair opportunity to cross-examine them. Yet an expert witness whose testimony was critical to proving the government’s case was allowed to testify anonymously….”
The witness called “Avi” had no relevance to the case. An alleged Hamas/Palestinian Islamic charities (zakat committees) expert, he belonged to Israel intelligence or security.
“The total secrecy of Avi’s identity is unprecedented: no reported cases have ever approved fully anonymous expert testimony like” his. As a result, the right of defense attorneys to cross-examine Avi was “completely impaired.”
However, Judge Solis wrongfully claimed revealing his identity, and another anonymous witness called “Major Lior,” would harm national security. Moreover, with no evidentiary hearing, prosecutors said doing so would place them in harm’s way.
By allowing their testimony to stand, the appeals court “mark(ed) a significant departure from existing case law.”
As a result, justice demands overturning HLF defendants’ convictions because:
– Sixth Amendment protections require revealing the true identify of expert witnesses to defense attorneys; and
– Confrontation Clause rights forbid secret witness testimonies, “no matter the circumstances.”
Based on Fifth Amendment due process violations and material support issues, Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole and attorney J Craig Jett of Burleson, Pate & Gibson submitted his own amicus brief.
Twenty organizations provided amicus support as interested parties, including:
– American Friends Service Committee
– Atlantic Philanthropies
– The Carter Center
– Christian Peacemaker Teams
– The Constitutional Project
– The Nathan Cummings Foundation
– The Fund for Constitutional Government
– Global Greengrants Fund
– Grantmakers Without Borders
– Grassroots International
– The Humanitarian Law Project
– Islamic Relief USA
– Milt Lauenstein
– Operation USA
– The Peace Appeal Foundation
– The Rockefeller Brothers Fund
– The Samuel Rubin Foundation
– Rutherford Institute
– Tikva Grassroots Empowerment Fund
– The Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
In part, the brief addresses whether anyone “can be convicted for violating a prohibition on ‘knowingly’ providing ‘material support’ to designated ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ without proof that he or she knowingly” did it.
Defendants, in fact, were convicted on multiple counts even though the district judge’s jury instructions relied on an erroneous and dangerously expansive interpretation of the material-support statute.
As a result, legitimate charitable work henceforth will be jeopardized based on unsubstantiated charges.
In fact, five recipient West Bank charities receiving HLF funds weren’t designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). Yet district court instructions told jurors they could find defendants guilty without proof of FTO connections.
Even prosecutors didn’t advance that argument. As a result, failing to reverse these wrongful convictions will have a chilling effect on legitimate charitable work. None henceforth will know if they’ll be free from criminal investigation, prosecution, or conviction.
“Amici maintain that the judge’s jury charge violates fundamental due process principles requiring fair notice of what conduct is prohibited, as well as proof of individual culpability. Moreover, the jury charge conflicts with (requiring) proof that defendants knew that they were supporting a designated organization.”
On September 1, 2011, the US 5th Circuit Appeals Court heard arguments for the defendants. On December 7, it upheld their convictions.
On December 8, Reuters headlined, “Muslim charity leaders lose appeal in Hamas case,” saying:
“The organizers of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation argued they were denied a fair trial in 2008 when the government used secret Israeli witnesses to testify against them. The organizers also raised a host of constitutional challenges to the evidence presented against them at trial.”
“The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those challenges, concluding that ‘while no trial is perfect,’ Holy Land and its leaders were fairly convicted. The court pointed to ‘voluminous evidence’ that the foundation, which was started in the late 1980s, had long-running financial ties to Hamas.”
In fact, they provided aid legally to needy Palestinians through zakat committees. The Court falsely accused them of links to Hamas. Judge Caroly King wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel:
“By supporting such entities, the defendants facilitated Hamas’ activity by furthering its popularity among Palestinians and by providing a funding resource. This, in turn, allowed Hamas to concentrate its efforts on violent activity.”
Appeals lawyers argued that prosecutors should have been denied permission to have Israeli witnesses testify anonymously. As a result, they weren’t able to determine their credentials and credibility.
Abdulrahman Odeh’s attorney Gregory Westfall, said the Constitution’s Confrontation Clause didn’t apply to these witnesses. He added that a Supreme Court appeal is likely. An uphill struggle remains for justice so far denied.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.