A federal jury in Dallas on Monday found an Islamic charity and five men linked to it guilty on all charges in a lengthy case linked to the funneling of over $12 million to the Palestinian group Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. The verdict, delivered on the eighth day of deliberations, capped a grueling process that included a messy mistrial last year on most of the charges that led to the retrial, underscoring the difficulty of securing convictions in such cases. The Holy Land Foundation was one of the biggest Islamic charities in the United States before its closure late in 2001 and said then that it focused on disaster relief and aid to Palestinian refugees. Prosecutors said money was funneled to the militant group Hamas, which seized Gaza last year after routing the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is pushing for an independent Palestinian state. “Today’s verdicts are important milestones in America’s efforts against financiers of terrorism,” Patrick Rowan, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement. The accused signaled through a spokesman that they would appeal the verdicts which could see at least two of them face life in prison. Local media reported that no sentencing date had been set yet…….The five men on trial were Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh. Two others also charged in the case are believed to be in the Middle East and are considered fugitives. Collectively, the five men and the charity itself faced over 100 counts and guilty verdicts were delivered across the board.Elashi, who helped found the charity, and Baker, its former head, both face the possibility of life in prison……. The charges included conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization, money laundering and tax fraud.
The HLF was the largest Palestinian charity in the U.S. and was intimately associated with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood whose organizations consistently supported HLF throughout the two trials. One of the first Brotherhood reactions to the convictions came from a group known as “Hungry for Justice, a coalition of U.S Muslim Brotherhood and allied organizations:
“While we respect the jury’s decision, we believe this unjust and un-American verdict will be overturned on appeal,” said Khalil Meek, a spokesman with Hungry for Justice, a support group for the accused. “The criminalization of legitimate charitable giving is not just an attack on the American Muslim community; it is an attack on every American who believes in the moral duty to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and heal the sick,” he said in a statement.
Among the more significant developments during the history of the prosecution was the public release of a cache of U.S. Brotherhood documents discovered in the backyard of one of the defendants that revealed the previously unknown covert structures of the Brotherhood in the U.S. Also significant was the naming of many of the U.S. Brotherhood leaders and organizations as unindicted coconspirators in the case, a move which is still being fought by those same groups and individuals.