The press release below concerns the Dallas trial of five top officials for the Holy Land Foundation who go on trial Tuesday. According to an LA Times story, “The indictment accuses Holy Land officials of supporting Hamas by sending money, goods and services through a network of so-called zakat committees, or local charities, and other organizations controlled by Hamas.”–gm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2007
Please find contact and event information below.
Holy Land Foundation: American Casualties of the “War of Terror”
The Holy Land Foundation provided humanitarian services to families in Palestine and surrounding areas through Zakat (charity) committees when their assets were frozen in December 2001 by an executive order. Zakat, or charity, is one of the five pillars of faith in Islam.
In addition to helping Palestinian refugees, the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) provided relief to people in need during the Turkish earthquakes, the wars in Bosnia/Serbia and the Oklahoma City bombing. The group was well known for its generous support of people around the world in crisis.
Three years later, the organization and seven of its officers were indicted on 42 charges, including conspiracy to provide material support to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. However, the government has since retracted all allegations that any of the Holy Land Foundation’s resources ever went to fund terrorism.
The government does not contest that the money sent from HLF to the Zakat committees went to need-based humanitarian aid. Instead, they contend that the social aid freed up resources for Hamas to spend on violent acts. These Zakat Committees, licensed by the Palestinian Authority government, received aid from many international charities funded by the U.S. In fact, this is still the case, and the U.S. government has never explained why HLF was singled out for prosecution.
Several civil rights and humanitarian issues are at stake in this high profile case. First is the American principle that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. HLF was designated a terrorist organization in May 2002 during what the Legal Intelligencer described as “a hasty and one-sided Treasury Department administrative hearing.” A lawyer working with HLF at the time commented in the same article:
“This administration basically has a free hand with whatever it wants to do insofar as administrative claims it relates to the war on terrorism. The courts are simply not going to check the executive.”
The Supreme Court refused to hear the HLF appeal when the federal courts in the District of Columbia failed to grant the defense a hearing for their challenge to the designation.
The persistence of the media to label this a “terror financing” case, instead of a “charity” or “civil rights” case, shows their willingness to continue to be the mouthpiece for the administration.
The government has also crossed unprecedented lines in what is considered admissible evidence. Israeli military intelligence is providing translated transcripts for the case. An independent translation company has found that the transcripts contain egregious errors, according to the L.A. Times, including the false allegation that the HLF employees used anti-Jewish hate language.
Many of the transcripts admitted also come from warrantless wiretappings, a subject that has caused much controversy among the civil libertarian crowds. Evidence submitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has been amended by the USA Act (part of the USA PATRIOT Act), is often problematic, said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of ACLU-TX.
“We’re concerned with the constitutionality of this case, and we will be monitoring it,” Graybill said.
In addition to the sketchy evidence, Graybill cited the fact that the Zakat committees had not been designated as terrorists and are still operational. She foresaw religious freedom issues coming up as the trial progresses. Also, Graybill said the publication of unindicted co-conspirators was underhanded, since those groups and individuals listed are not being charged with anything, yet they are now overshadowed with suspicion.
The government is relying heavily on guilt by association. Throughout the indictment, the government references family ties between HLF members and members of Hamas, the Palestinian political party that the U.S. has designated a terrorist.
Even so, most people would be in trouble if they were held accountable for the decisions their relatives make. After all, President Bush’s own grandfather had his assets frozen in 1942 for doing business with Nazi Germany under the Trading with the Enemy Act, but the Jewish population is not demanding reparations from the President for his family’s miscalculated judgments.
This case has caused a chilling effect in the Muslim community, which prides itself on its ongoing tradition of philanthropy. International humanitarian aid has dwindled since the indictment. Ironically, this effect serves to bolster terrorism recruitment, instead of stopping it, like the government claims it intends to do.
According to an OMB Watch report, “Muslim Charities and the War on Terror,” the 9/11 Commission reported, “A comprehensive U.S. strategy should include economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and to enhance prospects for their children’s future.”
When international aid slows, poverty grows. As poverty traps people into limited lives, they search desperately for ways to escape. Occupation and embargo are a deadly combination that lead too many to act on “Give me liberty or give me death!” Only education and prosperity, only genuinely helping our fellow human beings, the way that HLF was, will stop the forces that feed terrorism.
What: Hungry for Justice Press Conference
Who: Rep. Lon Burnam (D-TX), Director, Dallas Peace Center; Imam Mahdi Bray, Executive Director, Muslim American Society; Khalil Meek, President of BOD, Muslim Legal Fund of America; Mustafaa Carroll, Executive Director, CAIR-DFW
When: Tuesday, July 24 at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Commerce Street , across from the Earle Cabell Federal Building
Hungry for Justice Coalition Partners include: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-DFW); Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA); Muslim American Society (MAS); Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) Coalition; Dallas Peace Center; Partnership For Civil Justice; American Muslim Alliance (AMA); Reverend Graylan Hagler; and the American Muslim Task Force (AMT)
Khalil Meek, President, BOD, Muslim Legal Fund of America
Mustafaa Carroll, Executive Director, CAIR-DFW
Dr. Parvez Ahmed, National Chairman, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Imam Mahdi Bray, Executive Director, Muslim American Society (MAS)
Beth Freed, Media Relations, Muslim Legal Fund of America