Long trial of U.S. Islamic charity ends in convictions

November 25, 2008

Seven years after it was shut in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, a leading U.S. Islamic charity and five men linked to it have been convicted on numerous terrorist financing charges related to the funnelling of over $12 million to the militant Palestinian group Hamas. You can read our report here.

The guilty verdicts delivered on Monday by a federal jury in Dallas cap an arduous process that included a debacle last year that saw a mistrial on most of the counts, leading to this year’s lengthy retrial. Many years of investigation and probably millions of dollars in tax payer money went into the case against the Holy Land Foundation that finally resulted in a rare judicial victory for the out-going administration of U.S. President George W. Bush in its efforts to curtail the financing of overseas organisations it considers to be terrorist.

The stakes were high — a failure to secure convictions this time round would have probably brought the whole affair to an end. Investigators and prosecutors may now have more confidence to bring similar cases to trial down the road.

For the retrial the prosecution narrowed its case and simplified its narrative in a bid to reduce the complexity for the jury — a lesson learned from last year’s confusing mess. There were still 108 counts in all and the jury deliberated for eight days.

The Islamic community has said the case highlights the unfair scrutiny that U.S. Muslims have been subjected to since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and that such action criminalizes legitimate charitable activities which are central to the Islamic faith.

Support web sites such as “Freedom to Give” say the charity and the men were guilty of nothing more than supporting Palestinian refugees in need; the U.S. government maintains it was all a front to support Hamas.

There are still Islamic charities still operating in the United States such as Islamic Relief USA. But as we have reported on elsewhere — see two recent Reuters articles on the U.S. elections and fear of Muslims — many Americans of this faith live in a climate of suspicion.

What do you think of this verdict? Did the Holy Land Foundation get a fair trial?

One comment

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“A failure to secure convictions this time round would have probably brought the whole affair to an end.”

Ummm, wouldn’t a second failure have merely suggested the men were not guilty of the charges? Or were we all expected to automatically assume they’re guilty as sin just because they’re Islamic charities and U.S. prosecutors brought charges against them? What gives?

Posted by Aziz | Report as abusive