Holy Land Foundation Re-Trial: Guilty On All Counts
By Bill Zeeble, KERA News
Dallas, TX – A Dallas jury has convicted the once powerful Holy Land Foundation Muslim charity and five of its leaders on all counts tied to funneling money to the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas. That nearly reverses last fall's outcome of the first case, which ended in a mistrial. KERA's Bill Zeeble, reports.
After hearing all the guilty verdicts, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Richard Roper, called this a great day in the United States. He says this was a victory in one of the nation's biggest terror funding cases ever.
Richard Roper, U.S. Attorney, North District of Texas: We will not tolerate those who choose to finance terrorism. That's a clear message with the resounding verdict of guilty on all counts. Money is the lifeblood of terrorism, plain and simple.
This long and complex retrial alleged that the North Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, once the nation's largest Muslim charity, funded Hamas with at least $12 million disguised as charity. Some funds did go to Palestinians in need, but the government said others paid for violence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Jacks says his team learned from the first trial by streamlining arguments, and making better use of experts. Jacks says one of them explained how the defendants maintained close contact with Hamas leaders long after such contact became illegal.
U.S. Assistant Attorney James Jacks: That's not something the average person is going to be able to have, you know, telephone contact with leaders of a terrorist organization.
Jacks said another witness made clear to the jury how long standing terrorist organizations like Hamas can only survive on foreign and civilian funds. Another government expert also included an anonymous Israeli agent, which defense attorneys say offers grounds for appeal. Those lawyers did not speak after the trial. But backers of defendants did. Democratic Fort Worth state representative Lon Burnam, who is also director of the Dallas Peace Center, called this a political trial initiated by the Bush administration that targeted innocent Muslims.
Burnam: Most importantly, there is the truth and then there's the legal process. Both are being violated right now.
Hadi Jawad is a Muslim member of the Peace Center.
Hadi Jawad: This is a show trial from the get go. It was meant to let Muslims know in America we better find our place in society because we won't be treated like other Americans. There are two sets of rules, two constitutions. One constitution applies to Americans and one applies to Muslims.
Prosecutors deny all charges of bias, saying they brought the trial based on the evidence and the jury confirmed their case. A sentencing date hasn't been set yet. The guilty could face decades in prison. Their attorneys plan to appeal.