Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development

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Holy Land Foundation
for Relief and Development
TypeDefunct
Founded1989
HeadquartersRichardson, Texas
Key peopleMousa Mohammed Abu Marzook
Ghassan Elashi
Shukri Abu Baker
Haitham Maghawri
Mohammad el-Mezain
Akram Mishal (half brother
of Khaled Misha'l,
the current leader of Hamas)
Mufid Abdulqader
Abdulraham Odeh
Dr. Yasser Bushnaq
(now at large in Jordan)
Websitehlf.org
 
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Holy Land Foundation
for Relief and Development
TypeDefunct
Founded1989
HeadquartersRichardson, Texas
Key peopleMousa Mohammed Abu Marzook
Ghassan Elashi
Shukri Abu Baker
Haitham Maghawri
Mohammad el-Mezain
Akram Mishal (half brother
of Khaled Misha'l,
the current leader of Hamas)
Mufid Abdulqader
Abdulraham Odeh
Dr. Yasser Bushnaq
(now at large in Jordan)
Websitehlf.org

The Holy Land Foundation was the largest Islamic charity in the United States. Headquartered in Richardson, Texas,[1] it was originally known as Occupied Land Fund.[2] In 2007, federal prosecutors brought charges against the organization for funding Hamas and other "Islamic terrorist organizations".

Its assets were frozen by the European Union[3] and U.S., and it was shut down by the U.S. government following the discovery that it was funding Hamas. The 2008 trial of the charity leaders was dubbed the "largest terrorism financing prosecution in American history."[4] In 2009, the founders of the organization were given life sentences for "funneling $12 million to Hamas."[5]

The organization's website stated: "Our mission is to find and implement practical solutions for human suffering through humanitarian programs that impact the lives of the disadvantaged, disinherited, and displaced peoples suffering from man-made and natural disasters." Their primary area of focus was with the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. They also provided support to victims after disasters and wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey, and the United States (after Iowa floods, Texas tornadoes, and the Oklahoma City bombing).

Contents

Terrorism charges

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development that provided millions of dollars of material and logistical support to Hamas was designated as a charity by President Clinton in 1995 (Executive Order 12947[6]) and again on December 4, 2001 by President Bush's Executive Order 13224 (Bush).[7] HLF, originally known as the Occupied Land Fund, was established in California in 1989 as a tax-exempt charity. In 1992, HLF relocated to Richardson, Texas. It had offices in California, New Jersey, and Illinois, and individual representatives scattered throughout the US, the West Bank, and Gaza. Among the founders of the Holy Land Foundation is Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a political leader of Hamas, who provided substantial funds to the Holy Land Foundation in the early 1990s. In 1994, Marzook (who was named a Specially Designated Terrorist by the Treasury Department in 1995) designated HLF as the primary fund-raising entity for Hamas in the United States. He was deported from the US to Jordan in 1997. Marzook was indicted on August 20, 2004, by a US federal grand jury in Chicago, Illinois. He and two other individuals were charged with a 15-year conspiracy to raise funds for terrorist attacks against Israel.

In the year 2000 alone, HLF raised over $13 million. According to the United States Department of Treasury, HLF supported Hamas activities through direct fund transfers to its offices in the West Bank and Gaza that are affiliated with Hamas, and transfers of funds to Islamic charity committees ("zakat committees") and other charitable organizations that are part of Hamas or controlled by Hamas members. The Department of Treasury also reported that HLF funds were used by Hamas to support schools that served Hamas's ends by encouraging children to become suicide bombers and to recruit suicide bombers by offering support to their families.[8] Edward Abington, Jr., former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, acted as a defence witness and testified that during his daily CIA briefings he had never been informed that Hamas controlled the Palestinian charity groups mentioned.

In December 2001, the United States Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control designated the Holy Land Foundation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist,[2] while the European Union froze its European Assets.[9]

Chronology of events

In December 2001, the assets of the organization were frozen by the FBI and Treasury agents. Treasury officials conceded that a "substantial amount" of the money raised went to worthy causes, but insisted that Holy Land's primary purpose had been to subsidize Hamas. Repeated appeals to the courts by the Holy Land Foundation to have the freeze lifted failed.

On July 27, 2004, a federal grand jury in Dallas, Texas, returned a 42-count indictment against the Holy Land Foundation.[10] Charges included: conspiracy, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, tax evasion, and money laundering. The indictment alleged that the Holy Land Foundation provided more than $12.4 million to individuals and organizations linked to Hamas from 1995 to 2001, when their assets were frozen. The indictment also named specific officers of the Holy Land Foundation: President Shukri Abu Baker; Chairman Ghassan Elashi; and Executive Director Haitham Maghawri, and four others: Mohammad el-Mezain, Akram Mishal, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulraham Odeh. Five of the seven were arrested. Maghawri and Mishal have not been found, and are considered fugitives.

In December 2004, a federal judge in Chicago ruled that the Holy Land Foundation (along with the Islamic Association of Palestine and the Quranic Literacy Institute) was liable in a $156 million dollar lawsuit for aiding and abetting the militant group Hamas in the death of a 17-year-old American citizen named David Boim.[11]

2007 trial

A Holy Land Foundation criminal trial began on July 23, 2007, at the Earl Cabell Federal Building in Dallas, Texas. On October 22, 2007, Judge Joe Fish declared a mistrial because the jurors were deadlocked.

Testimony and evidence

During the 2007 trial the lawyers representing the foundation said that the Justice Department fabricated quotes and modified transcripts.[12] Critics faulted much of the evidence given during the trial. The New York Times journalist Leslie Eaton said Israeli agents using pseudonyms testified for the prosecution. The government did not allege that the foundation paid directly for suicide bombings, but instead that the foundation supported terrorism by sending more than $12 million to charitable groups, known as zakat committees, which build hospitals and feed the poor. The prosecution said the committees were controlled by Hamas, and contributed to terrorism by helping Hamas spread its ideology and recruit supporters.[13] Some of these charitable committees were still receiving US funding through the USAID programme as late as 2006.

Mistrial

After 19 days of deliberations, the 2007 jury was unable to come to a definitive conclusion and the case ended in a mistrial. While 200 charges were filed against the defendants, the jurors had acquitted on some counts and were deadlocked on charges ranging from tax violations to providing material support for terrorists. One defendant was acquitted of most of the 32 charges against him. The New York Times reported: " The decision today is "a stunning setback for the government, there's no other way of looking at it," said Matthew D. Orwig, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal who was, until recently, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. "This is a message, a two-by-four in the middle of the forehead," Orwig said. "If this doesn’t get their attention, they are just in complete denial," he said of Justice Department officials, whom he said may not have recognized how difficult such cases are to prosecute."[13]

Experts found the jury's inability to come to a definitive conclusion to be evidence of weakness in the government's ability to provide clear enough evidence against the charity. The LA Times reported that Georgetown University law professor David Cole said: "If the government can shut them down and then not convince a jury the group is guilty of any wrongdoing, then there is something wrong with the process".[14] "The whole case was based on assumptions that were based on suspicions", said juror Scroggins, who added: "If they had been a Christian or Jewish group, I don't think [prosecutors] would have brought charges against them."[14]

2008 retrial; convictions

The federal government began a retrial on August 18, 2008.

On November 24, 2008, the government obtained guilty verdicts against the Holy Land Foundation and five individual defendants in the retrial. Holy Land was found guilty of giving more than $12 million to support the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which the US designated as a terrorist organization in 1995, and made supporting the group illegal.

The jury found against the Holy Land Foundation on all 108 charges. The charges included conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, providing material support to a foreign terrorist, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

"Today's verdicts are important milestones in America's efforts against financiers of terrorism", Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security, said after the trial. "This prosecution demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups."

The five convicted individuals were Ghassan Elashi, former CEO Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh, and Mohammad El-Mezain.

check from Holy Land Foundation
to Council on American-Islamic Relations

Because of the potential lengthy sentences for the criminal convictions, the individual defendants were remanded into custody without bail pending any appeal.[15]

A 2011 NPR report claimed some of the people associated with this group were imprisoned in a highly restrictive Communication Management Unit.[16]

In May 2012, Elashi, Baker, Abdulqader, and Odeh filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, challenging their convictions on Sixth Amendment grounds and thereby requesting that the high court review their convictions.[17][18] The defendants assert that the prosecution's use of two anonymous witnesses during their trial was impermissible as a matter of law.[19]

On October 29, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States denied their appeal.[20][21]

An Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America

An Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America[22] is a document seized by the government that was used in the 2008 United States v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development case.[23] The verdict found the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development guilty of laundering money to known Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. According to critics of Islamism such as the Anti-Defamation League, some observers have suggested that this document "identifies a conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to convert the United States to an Islamic nation." The document also lists a number of Islamic organizations that are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood to working together to achieve the goals.[24] Requests for removal of CAIR and others from the list of unindicted co-conspirators were denied by the court under the holding that the evidence supported the existence of the conspiracy.

The memorandum was written in 1991 by Mohamed Akram, a senior Hamas leader in the U.S., a member of the Board of Directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America (also known as the Ikhwan) and one of many unindicted coconspirators in the HLF trial. He asked them to read it for approval as an update and restatement of the plan they had adopted in 1987. Strategic goals number 6 was: "supporting the establishment of the global Islamic State wherever it is". The Memorandum explains "settlement process" as a "grand jihad" eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,[25] and "sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions."[26] Author Robert Spencer has characterized this process as “stealth jihad.” [27][28]

Though so far the Muslim Brotherhood has not repudiated the memorandum or responded to critics, some press has responded to the use of the memorandum to justify a call for a ban on "sharia". The memorandum was cited by the September 2010 Center for Security Policy (CSP) report, "Shariah: The Threat to America" and endorsed by several members of Congress.[29] This report was characterized by IPS as "the latest development in a summer filled with intensifying attacks on Islam in the United States" which charges that many "apparently-lawful U.S. Muslims are waging a 'stealth jihad' to impose sharia on the U.S. through peaceful means" and furthermore claims that "virtually all major Muslim-American organisations are affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood", a Sunni fundamentalist organisation. The report suggested sharia is "the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time". It called for a "draconian" ban on Muslims who "espouse or support" sharia from full participation in government and the armed forces, prosecuting and banning immigration to the U.S. by those who adhere to sharia.

The document is mentioned in the film, The Third Jihad.[30]

Related groups

Elashi, HLF chairman, was also vice president of InfoCom Corporation of Richardson, Texas, indicted along with Hamas' Marzook.[31] InfoCom, an Internet company, shared personnel, office space, and board members with the HLF. The two organizations were formed in California around the same time, and both received seed money from Hamas leader Marzook.[32] InfoCom also maintained the web sites for HLF and IAP.[33]

See also


Notes

  1. ^ "Contact Us." Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
  2. ^ a b (PDF) Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. United States Department of the Treasury. November 20, 2008. http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/sdn/t11sdn.pdf. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  3. ^ (PDF) 2005 EU list of banned individuals and groups. Official Journal of the European Union. December 23, 2005. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00800084.pdf. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  4. ^ Agence France-PresseNovember 24, 2008
  5. ^ "Holy Land founders get life sentences." JTA. May 28, 2009. May 28, 2009.
  6. ^ President Bill Clinton (January 25, 1995) (PDF). Executive Order 12947. United States Department of the Treasury. http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/eo/12947.pdf. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  7. ^ President George W. Bush (September 25, 2001) (PDF). Executive Order 13224. United States Department of the Treasury. http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/eo/13224.pdf. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  8. ^ Additional Background Information on Charities Designated Under Executive Order 13224
  9. ^ Archived January 7, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Attorney General John Ashcroft (July 27, 2004). Prepared Remarks re: Holy Land Foundation Indictment. United States Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/archive/ag/speeches/2004/72704ag.htm. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  11. ^ "Hamas victim's family get $156m". BBC. December 8, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4080499.stm. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  12. ^ Krikorian, Greg (February 25, 2007). "Charity's lawyers say quotes were fabricated". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/feb/25/nation/na-holyland25.
  13. ^ a b Eaton, Leslie (October 22, 2007). "No Convictions in Trial Against Muslim Charity". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/us/22cnd-holyland.htm. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  14. ^ a b "Weak case seen in failed trial of charity; Muslim relief group was shut based on charges that ended in mistrial.", by Greg Krikorian, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 2007, page A22.
  15. ^ "Guilty Verdicts in Holy Land Foundation Retrial". CBS 11 / TXA 21 Dallas Fort-Worth (CBS 11 / TXA 21 Dallas Fort-Worth). November 24, 2008. http://cbs11tv.com/local/holy.land.retrial.2.872727.html. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  16. ^ DATA & GRAPHICS: Population Of The Communications Management Units, Margot Williams and Alyson Hurt, NPR, 3-3-11, retrieved 2011 03 04 from npr.org
  17. ^ "Elashi v. United States Docket". U.S. Supreme Court. http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/11-1390.htm.
  18. ^ "Cases in the Pipeline, Elashi v. United States". scotusblog.com. http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/elashi-v-united-states.
  19. ^ "Defendants' Petition for Certiorari, Elashi v. United States, May 21, 2012". http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/11-1390-Elashi-v.-U.S.-Petition.pdf.
  20. ^ "Defendants' Petition for Certiorari Rejected, Elashi et al v. United States, October 29, 2012". http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=%2Fdocketfiles%2F11-1390.htm.
  21. ^ Supreme Court denies appeal of Holy Land Foundation convictions
  22. ^ "U.S. District CourtNorthern District of Texas". Txnd.uscourts.gov. http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/judges/hlf2/09-25-08/Elbarasse%20Search%203. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  23. ^ Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi (November 2007), "The Muslim Brotherhood: A Moderate Islamic Alternative to al-Qaeda or a Partner in Global Jihad?", Jerusalem Viewpoints (Institute for Contemporary Affairs)
  24. ^ INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST SYMBOLS DATABASE Muslim Brotherhood
  25. ^ "Islamic banking". Washington Times. 11 December 2008. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/11/islamic-banking/.
  26. ^ Frank J. Gaffner Jr. (16 May 2011). "Muslim outreach, Take 2". Washington Times. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/may/16/middle-east-muddle-388037495/.
  27. ^ New 'Jihad Threat Report' from the Center for Security Policy
  28. ^ full memorandum
  29. ^ Forget 'Ground Zero Mosque', It's the Great Sharia Conspiracy By Daniel Luban
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ "Senior Leader of Hamas and Texas Computer Company Indicted for Conspiracy to Violate U.S. Ban on Financial Dealings with Terrorists" (Press release). United States Department of Justice. December 18, 2002. http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2002/December/02_crm_734.htm. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  32. ^ Matthew A. Levitt (August 1, 2002). Hearing on "The Role of Charities and NGOs in the Financing of Terrorist Activities.". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. http://banking.senate.gov/02_08hrg/080102/levitt.htm. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  33. ^ Fact Sheet on the Elashi Brothers and InfoCom. SITE Intelligence Group. December 18, 2002. http://siteintelgroup.org/bin/articles.cgi?ID=news1902&Category=news&Subcategory=0. Retrieved November 24, 2008.

External links