Stephen Lendman

On September 1, the US 5th Circuit Appeals Court will hear arguments on behalf of five wrongly convicted Holy Land Foundation (HLF) principles. More on their case below.

On June 15, 2009 former UK MP turned activist George Galloway said:

“As I stand here in Dallas, I have to say it’s one of the most monstrous injustices in modern times in America.”

It’s that and more, attorney Nancy Hollander, representing Shukri Abu Baker, HLF’s President and CEO, saying:

“It’s remarkable. My client was convicted of providing charity. There was not, in ten years of wiretapping his home, his office, looking at his faxes, listening to everything he said, there was not one word out of his mouth about violence to anyone or about support for Hamas.”

HLF provided charity for needy people. Bush administration prosecutors called it a crime. So does Obama’s Justice Department, also persecuting innocent Muslims lawlessly.

As a result, family and friends of convicted HLF principals ask, “Is it a crime to feed these children,” showing images of three young boys no one would deny the right to food aid. In fact, anyone raising money for it is honorable, not villainous.

In today’s America, however, “crimes” are anything prosecutors call criminal. Innocence or guilt doesn’t matter. Victims are guilty by accusation. Justice is a mere artifact, discarded for political advantage and  America’s prison/industrial system appetite, illegally filling beds for control, profit, muscle flexing, and vengeance against soft targets to incite fear.

As a result, co-founder, President and CEO Shukri Abu Baker received 65 years in prison.

Co-founder, Chairman and former Executive Director Ghassan Elashi also got 65 years.

Mohammed el-Mezain, former Chairman, Head of California Operation 15 years.

Top fundraiser Mufid Abdulqader 20 years, and

Abdulrahman Odeh, Director of HLF East (New Jersey) 15 years.

A previous article discussed the case in detail, accessed through the following link:

On December 4, 2001, Bush’s Treasury Department wrongfully declared HLF a terrorist group, froze its assets, and falsely claimed they were used to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas. HLF appealed but was denied.

Until then, it was America’s largest Muslim charity. Based in Richardson, TX, it provided aid to needy people in numerous countries, including Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey, and America with an annual budget of about $14 million.

Its major activities included:

— financial aid to needy and impoverished families;

— a sponsorship program for orphaned children;

— various social and educational services;

— medical and other emergency work; and

— community development, including help to rebuild Palestinian homes, illegally demolished by Israel.

Nonetheless, they were bogusly convicted of numerous charges, including providing aid to a designated terrorist organization (Hamas), money laundering, conspiracy, and filing false tax returns.

HLF explained its work as follows, saying “We gave:

— books, not bombs;

— bread, not bullets;

— smiles, not scars;

— toys, not tanks;

— peace, not terror;

— liberty, not poverty;

— hope, not despair;

— love, not hate; (and)

— life, not death.

So we ask: If (over six decades of occupation) obviously shatters lives, while charity builds them and charity feeds children, while occupation kills them, why is a charity organization – not occupation – paying the price.”

Appealing for Justice

On October 19, 2010, attorneys submitted a 149-page brief, providing convincing evidence of wrongful convictions. Appellate issues raised include:

(1) Names of two prosecutorial witnesses were withheld from defense attorneys, including its key one – violating Fifth Amendment due process rights and Sixth Amendment right of a defendant to confront accusers.

(2) The district court allowed prejudicial hearsay evidence to be heard. One source admitted sending money to Hamas. He also defrauded his employer of $610,000 in a scam unrelated to HLF. Moreover, he cheated on his taxes and lied to the FBI. As part of a plea bargain, he agreed to lie again under oath – against innocent HLF principles.

(3) The court allowed irrelevant prejudicial evidence to be presented, including alleged Hamas suicide bombing exhibits, killing Israeli collaborators, a video showing demonstrators stomping on and burning the American flag, and more. All of it was unrelated to the case.

(4) Irrelevant prejudicial testimonies were also allowed, including erroneous legal and religious opinions.

(5) At the same time, the court denied defense attorneys the right to review government recorded, intercepted, or otherwise gotten statements, based on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authority.

FISA, in fact, is classic police state tyranny, violating Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. It also requires warrants to be judicially sanctioned, based on clear probable cause.

However, using undisclosed (likely manufactured) secret evidence, FISA permits unrestricted warrantless spying, data mining, and intercept of domestic and foreign Internet, telephone, and other communications, based on alleged national security threats.

As a result, it renders the notion of illegal searches, seizures, and privacy null and void. Anyone now for real or concocted reasons may be charged, convicted and imprisoned for alleged crimes they never conceived, planned or committed.

Based on Sixth Amendment issues, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) submitted an amicus brief for HLF defendants. Access it through the following link:$FILE/ElMezain_Amicus.pdf

In part, it states:

“If the Confrontation Clause means anything, it is that a criminal defendant must be allowed to know his accusers (to) have a fair opportunity to cross-examine them. Yet an expert witness whose testimony was critical to proving the government’s case was allowed to testify anonymously….”

The witness called “Avi” had no relevance to the case. An alleged Hamas/Palestinian Islamic charities (zakat committees) expert, he belonged to Israel intelligence or security.

“The total secrecy of Avi’s identity is unprecedented: no reported cases have ever approved fully anonymous expert testimony like” his. As a result, the right of defense attorneys to cross-examine Avi was “completely impaired.”

However, Judge Solis wrongfully claimed revealing his identity, and another anonymous witness called “Major Lior,” would harm national security. Moreover, with no evidentiary hearing, prosecutors said doing so would place them in harm’s way.

If that ruling stands, it not only would “mark a significant departure from existing case law, but also would stand apart from a deep historical record condemning the use of secret witnesses in criminal prosecutions.”

As a result, justice demands overturning HLF defendants’ convictions because:

— Sixth Amendment protections require revealing the true identify of expert witnesses to defense attorneys; and

— Confrontation Clause rights forbid secret witness testimonies, “no matter the circumstances.”

Based on Fifth Amendment due process violations and material support issues, Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole and attorney J Craig Jett of Burleson, Pate & Gibson submitted another amicus brief.

Access it through the following link:

Twenty organizations joined them including:

American Friends Service Committee

Atlantic Philanthropies

The Carter Center

Christian Peacemaker Teams

The Constitutional Project

The Nathan Cummings Foundation

The Fund for Constitutional Government

Global Greengrants Fund

Grantmakers Without Borders

Grassroots International

The Humanitarian Law Project

Islamic Relief USA

Milt Lauenstein

Operation USA

The Peace Appeal Foundation

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund

The Samuel Rubin Foundation

Rutherford Institute

Tikva Grassroots Empowerment Fund

The Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

In part, the brief addresses whether anyone “can be convicted for violating a prohibition on ‘knowingly’ providing ‘material support’ to designated ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ without proof that he or she knowingly” did it.

Defendants, in fact, were convicted on multiple counts “on the ground that the district judge’s jury instructions (on them) relied upon an erroneous and dangerously expansive interpretation of the material-support statute.”

If upheld, legitimate charitable work henceforth will be jeopardized based on unsubstantiated charges.

In fact, five recipient West Bank charities receiving HLF funds “were not designated” foreign terrorist organizations, “yet the district court instructed the jury that it could render a verdict of guilty without any proof that defendants knew that those recipients were in any way connected to a designated foreign terrorist organization.”

Even prosecutors didn’t advance that argument. As a result, failing to reverse these wrongful convictions will have a “chilling effect on wholly legitimate charitable work,” because none of them henceforth could be sure they’d be free from criminal investigation, prosecution, or conviction.

“Amici maintain that the judge’s jury charge violates fundamental due process principles requiring fair notice of what conduct is prohibited, as well as proof of individual culpability. Moreover, the jury charge conflicts with (requiring) proof that defendants knew that they were supporting a designated organization.”

Clearly, they were not!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

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