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Terror supporters convicted

Posted by Richard on November 27, 2008

The retrial of five Holy Land Foundation officials (the first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked) has finally ended. All the defendants were convicted on all counts:

The men, Shukri Abu-Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohamed El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdelrahman Odeh, could face up to 20 years in prison for their convictions on conspiracy counts, including conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. The verdicts, read Monday afternoon, ended a two-year saga in what is considered the largest terror financing case since the 9/11 attacks.

After the first trial, I remember lots of criticism of government prosecutors for presenting a very complicated case — with scores of witnesses, lots of complex financial data, and tons of evidence — in a very disorganized and hard-to-follow manner. Someone seems to have addressed that problem effectively this time (emphasis added):

Prosecutors made a series of significant adjustments, from dropping 29 counts each against defendants Mufid Abdulqader and Abdelrahman Odeh, to adding new witnesses who could put the charity support in context. In addition, jurors in this trial saw three exhibits Israeli military officials seized from the Palestinian Authority which showed the PA also considered HLF to be a Hamas financer and that an HLF-supported charity committee was controlled by Hamas.

The result was a much more streamlined case that followed a logical narrative, said Peter Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Seeing the Palestinian Authority reach the same conclusion as the U.S. government had to have helped, he said.

In addition, prosecutors provided summary exhibits that served as "a road map" to the case and had to help jurors deliberate, Margulies said. "The jury was able to look at the evidence and get past the perceived biases of any of the witnesses and see the evidence as a whole."

That evidence made clear that the defendants knew where the money raised in the U.S. was going despite legal prohibitions against support for Hamas.

The verdict was hailed by M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Prosecutors prevailed because they were able to "connect the ideology of political Islam and the overriding mission of Islamist organizations like the HLF to their desire to contribute to the efforts of terror groups, like Hamas," he said. "When this connection is made we will see the return of a guilty verdict. In future [terrorism financing] cases DOJ will not only have to connect the financial dots but [will have] to demonstrate an overarching common Islamist mission."

Don't forget that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — which the media (and many in the government) routinely portray as the voice of moderate American Muslims — was an unindicted co-conspirator in this case. Because the leadership of CAIR shares that "ideology of political Islam" and "Islamist mission."

BTW, those inclined to see this as just another example of the Bush administration trampling on civil liberties should take it up with members of Congress and the previous administration (it looks like many of the latter will be back on January 20th):

… Support for Hamas became illegal with a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton and subsequent congressional action.


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