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
AMY GOODMAN: The Shin Bet being the Israeli intelligence.
NANCY HOLLANDER: Yes, yes, correct. And that's where they got the
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, . . .
[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]
[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," electronicintifada.net, October 24, 2012]