"Holy Land supporters accuse government of preying on fear
November 24, 2008
The verdicts came down slowly and cast a pall over an already somber courtroom. "Guilty" was heard over and over again.
Most family members and friends of the five defendants in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial remained stoic Monday as justice was meted out, but one person sobbed: "My dad is not a criminal. He's a human!"
For the roughly 150 supporters at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas, that may best summarize their take on the outcome of one of the nation's biggest and most important terrorism financing trials.
Supporters say the government's case was built on fear-mongering, and they stand by long-held assertions that Holy Land was a legitimate charity concerned only with providing relief to Palestinians living in poverty and hardship under the decades-long Israeli occupation.
Some supporters cried quietly after the verdicts were read.
Some cried after the guilty verdicts were announced yesterday at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas. (Jim Mahoney/The Dallas Morning News/Associated Press)
Now I'm really, really, really, sour on that damnable little piece of s*** puke state, Iz-ray-HELL!!!!!
Some looked in shock, disbelief registering on their faces. Tension filled the air. As people began to quietly file out of the courtroom, many supporters shouted words of encouragement to the defendants. Some of the defendants defiantly flashed victory signs.
Defense attorneys did not talk to The Dallas Morning News, but are already discussing appeals.
The subdued reaction to the verdicts was in cold contrast to the jubilation they felt 13 months ago as the first Holy Land trial ended mostly in a mistrial when a confused and beleaguered jury deadlocked after 19 days of deliberations. The second jury wrestled just eight days with the massive and complex case.
The journey for supporters has been far longer: Holy Land and its leadership had been investigated since the early 1990s. President George W. Bush announced that the foundation had been shut down in 2001. Indictments came in 2004.
John Wolf, a friend and member of the Hungry for Justice coalition, said he'd known the defendants for 12 years.
"I'm not surprised," he said of the verdicts. "I think the government had their do-over and they learned from their mistakes. It's hard to accept because I don't believe the gentlemen are guilty. These guys are the sweetest, clean-hearted people."
During the trial, defense attorneys accused the government of bending to Israeli pressure to prosecute the charity, and of relying on old evidence. But jurors agreed with the government's contention that at least $12 million raised in the U.S. had been illegally funneled to Hamas after that organization was banned as a terrorist group by the federal government in 1995.
In light of the crimes and the likely length of their sentences, which will come later, the judge ordered that all five defendants be immediately taken into custody. One, Ghassan Elashi, is already serving a 6 ½ -year sentence in federal prison for export law violations.
His daughter, an outspoken critic of the prosecution, read a statement calling the verdicts a low point for the United States of America.
"My dad is a law-abiding citizen," said Noor Elashi. "My dad was persecuted for his political beliefs and his humanitarian work in Palestine. ... He saved lives and now he's paying the price. I'm very proud of him."
Ms. Elashi, visibly angry, said she had not shed any tears over the verdicts because she knew that her father was being persecuted "because he saved lives." "I feel heartbroken that a group of my fellow Americans fell for the prosecution's fear-mongering," she said. "This is not over," she added.
Unlike the young lady, I am crying! All this does is make me despise that little piece of a s***-stinking corpse called Israel that much more. You start treating Palestinians with the DIGNITY and HONOR they deserve and then maybe I'll think of forgiving you, Israel!
Some supporters have said that the defendants, even if convicted, would be considered freedom fighters or folk heroes. Peter Margulies, a Roger Williams University law professor who studies terrorism financing cases, said the government has won the case, but has work to do for American Muslims.
"Going forward ... the government must be more pro-active about furnishing guidance to Muslim-Americans who merely wish to fulfill their religious obligations," he said. That may be too little, too late for some.
Mohammed Wafa Yaish, Holy Land's former accountant and a witness of the trial, said after the verdicts were read that he is angry that the prosecution brought up the Taliban and al-Qaeda during the trial. "What does giving charity to the Palestinians in the refugee camps have to do with this?" he said. "They scared the jurors. Fear is the No. 1 government tactic."
Yeah, and Amurkn jurors aren't exactly where I 'd want my fate decided, either.
I'm sure they yummied right up the government's poop plops!