DALLAS — On Nov. 24, Bush administration attorneys got what they wanted from a jury here. The second extended version of the Holy Land Foundation Trial ended with a guilty verdict against five former leaders of the nation’s largest Muslim charity.
A hung jury had ended the first trial. The third one will be an appeal that is already under way, according to Hadi Jawad. Jawad, a leader of the Dallas Peace Center and civil rights groups, helped organize coalition support for the Holy Land defendants: Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad El-Mezain. Spokespersons for the coalition included State Rep. Lon Burnam, Chip Pitts of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and various leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
The American Civil Liberties Union has also entered one important aspect of the case: the government is threatening legal action against a hit list of some ‘300 unindicted co-conspirators’ who represent most of the important Muslim organizations in the U.S.
In both trials, Dallas activists held daily vigils outside the federal courthouse. The support coalition began bringing food and warm clothing for homeless street people in the area, and common cause was made. The conclusion of the second trial came on day one of the third month of vigils. Hadi Jawad says that over 3,000 people took part overall. ‘We’ve had up to 300 at one time!’ he pointed out.
The essential accusation is that the Holy Land Foundation of Richardson, Texas, raised money to help the destitute population of Palestine. The government claims that at least some of the money passed through the Hamas organization, which was designated a terrorist organization in 1995. Supporters of the defense say that virtually no evidence was given to show that any donations to Hamas after 1995 can be traced to the defendants.
According to Jawad and other trial observers, government prosecutors were little concerned about justice. Jawad said, ‘All their statements to the jury were, ‘Don’t be concerned about the law.’ That was a shocking statement to hear … that it isn’t about the law but that it is about terrorism, and about fear.”
“It was on fear-mongering that the government based their case,” he said. “They scared the jury. They showed videos of fundraisers, and some of them were exciting because the Palestinians are fighting a brutal occupation. People have the right to resist a foreign occupation. They used those videos to create fears in the mind of the jurors and the court … Justice was not done from the beginning. Their case was based on lies and fear-mongering from the beginning. It was the U.S. government saying to Muslim organizations in the U.S., ‘Don’t confront U.S. policy in the Middle East, or you will pay the price!’’
Those who watched the trial carefully were particularly incensed that the government relied on an anonymous witness. ‘Avi’ claimed to be an agent of the Israeli secret police, but no one knows for sure who or what he may be and just how reliable his testimony is.
It is obvious to all that government lawyers consider the case important. Legal proceedings against the defendants have already eaten up millions of dollars and dragged out for 15 years and two long trials.
It is especially ironic that the prosecutors’ success came on the same day that the Bush administration announced 14 new presidential pardons of convicted criminals. U.S. Labor Against the War and other organizations are raising a cry for war crime indictments against Bush functionaries. Progressives all over the Western Hemisphere are demanding the release of the Cuban Five who landed in prison after having attempted to end U.S.-based terrorism against their native country. Only a handful of the many victims of the Guantanamo special prison have had any kind of legal hearing. News reports say that the government’s number-one ‘terrorist’ captive, Salim Hamdan — accused of being a chauffeur for Osama bin Laden — has been sent home to Yemen. Americans are hoping that the government being sworn in this January will repair the Bush-distorted definition of ‘justice.’