Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prosecution Got a Conviction in Holy Land FoundationTrial

The prosecution succeeded, and that is the only way I can lead off on this embarrassing report. A jury of twelve Dallas residents believed a prosecution that I also witnessed, and handed down a conviction on all counts - of Muslim charities being directly supportive of Hamas after that group was declared a terrorist operation. I cannot say the defendants, including the Holy Land Foundation itself, were found guilty.

As I have reported, the courtroom procedure included allowing witnesses to testify without being identified because they were Israeli agents, allowing hearsay testimony in addition to both testimony and redirect that ranged into the territory of phantasmagorical, and a prosecution wrap-up that told jurors that they should rely on their memories instead of testimony and evidence, and that freedom of speech wasn't allowed if that speech showed bad feelings. Demonstrations against Israeli occupation were the main focus of the U.S. prosecution.

There will be an appeal, and recent overturning of a similar case in which the prosecution was allowed tactics that also ran into the unconstitutional range makes the prospects somewhat promising.

As I have previously reported, the local reports often gave prosecution contentions without balancing defense arguments, so I will give the al Jazeera report which contains both sides.

A US court has convicted a Muslim charity and five of its former leaders of all 108 charges in the largest "terrorism" financing trial in US history.

The Texas jury reached its verdict on Monday after eight days of deliberations over whether the former Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once the largest US Muslim charity, had given money to the Palestinian group Hamas.

The charity, which was shut down seven years ago, was accused of giving more than $12m to support Hamas, which was designated a "terrorist organisation" in 1995 by the US government.

The hour-long verdict, following a seven-week trial, came after a first trial ended in October 2007 with one man acquitted on 31 charges but jurors unable to agree on verdicts for others.
Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman, reporting from Dallas, Texas, where the court case took place, said a former US state department official testified that he was never told that Hamas directed the US charity during intelligence briefings.

But an unidentified Israeli witness told the court that the aid was funnelled through Hamas channels.

Lydia Gonzalez of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the defendants did not get a fair trial.

"When you're supposed to be able to face your accusers fully and against secret evidence and secret witness, I think that leads to reasonable doubt."

Muslim groups say the prosecution has made American Muslims more hesitant to fulfil their religious obligation of helping the needy and the foundation's defenders accuse the government of selectively prosecuting the charity.

"The same charities that these guys gave to the American Red Cross is still giving to, the USAID is still giving to," Mustafaa Carroll of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.

The matters on trial in this courtroom were never about U.S. terrorism, but centered around Hamas activities against Israel. A major point the prosecution attempted to make was that zakat committees, which are the main instrument of administering charity in the Middle East, are controlled by Hamas, and therefore all charity benefited that group.

While I could definitely see that Hamas was shown resolutely not to accept Israeli occupation, I never saw any reason shown by prosecution that charitable operations in the U.S. conducted by Holy Land Foundation were a concern of the U.S. Department of Justice. That the Muslim religion demands charity and that zakat committees are the instrument of delivery appeared to be proven: that U.N., worldwide, and U.S. charitable efforts have and do deliver assistance through those means was proven as well.

Without going back over details minutely, I must say I saw no concern with justice in the courtroom that I observed; rather the efforts were concerned with making a connection between charity in the Middle East and terrorists. The aspects that I saw proven were familial and social relationships among the many groups, and that some members of the communities had Hamas connections. For the most part, the prosecution's constant attempt to blur a connection between the need for charity in occupied communities and hatred for Israel depended on very slim pickings of occasional statements of very bad feelings toward the occupiers. I was embarrassed for this country, and horrified that the jurors affirmed the prosecutors' feelings.

If all the millions spent on this mockery of a trial had gone into, say, actual charitable activities that showed the U.S. character as generous rather than undermining generosity, I would feel much more secure.

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Blogger Gert said...


I'll be linking to your post shortly.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Ruth. You hit the nail on the head. I, too, am so disappointed in this jury. I also have started wondering if someone "got" to the jury over the weekend...


10:05 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Welcome, Gert.
Mothra - you all did great, I am disappointed that the U.S. was so ill served. Hopefully, a radical revision in the politicization of our DOJ will take place shortly following January 21.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Apologies about the cheap spam above, please ignore, otherwise I will have to block all the comments. Icky stuff. I do not approve of these hoaxes.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Salaam said...

Hi Ruth,

Linked and excerpted at www.progressiveislam.info.

Thanks so much for your coverage. This is actually the third or fourth time I've excerpted and linked your posts.

Here's my comment from my blog:
The objective here seems to have been to criminalize charity ito the Palestinian people in any area under the control of Hamas. By this immoral logic, a starvation siege makes perfect sense, which is exactly what is happening in Gaza right now. Too bad that Texas jury couldn't have shown a little more moral leadership. This will become another incident that damages America's ability to function as a moral leader in the world as it once used to be.

11:59 AM  
Blogger VforVirginia said...

I'm speechless. What has happened to us?

I hope they get something approximating justice on appeal.

Thanks for staying with this tragic story, Ruth.

3:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.

3:47 AM  

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