U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney Richard B. Roper
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
MEDIA INQUIRIES: KATHY COLVIN
|MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2008
FEDERAL JURY IN DALLAS CONVICTS HOLY LAND FOUNDATION AND ITS LEADERS FOR PROVIDING MATERIAL SUPPORT TO HAMAS TERRORIST ORGANIZATION
DALLAS — Following approximately six weeks of testimony and seven days of deliberation, a federal jury in Dallas returned guilty verdicts this afternoon convicting the Holy Land Foundation of Relief and Development (HLF) and five of its leaders on charges of providing material support to Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, announced U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper of the Northern District of Texas.
“Money is the lifeblood of terrorism. The jury’s decision demonstrates that U.S. citizens will not tolerate those who provide financial support to terrorist organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Roper.
The jury convicted all defendants on the conspiracy charges — conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization; conspiracy to provide funds, goods and services to a specially designated terrorist; and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition, Abu Baker and Elashi were convicted of conspiring to impede and impair the IRS.
HLF, Abu Baker and Elashi were also convicted on all of the substantive charges of providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, providing funds, goods and services to a specially designated terrorist and money laundering. Abu Baker was convicted on one count of filing a false tax return and Elashi was convicted on two counts of filing a false tax return.
The government presented evidence at trial that, as the U.S. began to scrutinize individuals and entities in the U.S. who were raising funds for terrorist groups in the mid-1990s, the HLF intentionally hid its financial support for Hamas behind the guise of charitable donations. HLF and these five defendants provided approximately $12.4 million in support to Hamas and its goal of creating an Islamic Palestinian state by eliminating the State of Israel through violent jihad.
The government’s case included testimony that in the early 1990's, Hamas’ parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, planned to establish a network of organizations in the U.S. to spread a militant Islamist message and raise money for Hamas. The government’s case also included testimony about Hamas material found in zakat committees. The defendants sent HLF-raised funds to Hamas- controlled zakat committees and charitable societies in the West Bank and Gaza. Zakat is an Arabic word meaning the religious obligation to give alms.
HLF became the chief fundraising arm for the Palestine Committee in the U.S. created by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas. According to a wiretap of a 1993 Palestine Committee meeting in Philadelphia, former HLF President and CEO Shukri Abu Baker, spoke about playing down Hamas ties in order to keep raising money in the U.S. Another wiretapped phone call included Abdulrahman Odeh, HLF’s New Jersey representative, referring to a suicide bombing as “a beautiful operation.”
The government also presented evidence that several HLF defendants have family members who are Hamas leaders, including Hamas’s political chief, Mousa Abu Marzook, who is married to a cousin of Ghassan Elashi, HLF’s former Chairman of the Board. Ghassan Elashi, who also served as the vice-president of marketing for Infocom Corporation, is currently serving an 80-month sentence following his conviction on several charges related to export violations. Mohammed El-Mezain was HLF’s Director of Endowments and Mufid Abdulqater was HLF’s projects and grants director. Two named defendants, Akram Mishal and Haitham Maghawri are fugitives.
The defendants provided financial support to the families of Hamas martyrs, detainees, and activists knowing and intending that such assistance would support the Hamas terrorist organization. Since 1995, when it first became illegal to provide financial support to Hamas, HLF provided approximately $12.4 million in funding to Hamas through various Hamas-affiliated committees and organizations located in Palestinian-controlled areas and elsewhere.
During trial, the government also presented evidence that HLF was so concerned about investigators uncovering the group’s intentions that they kept a manual entitled “The Foundations Policies and Procedures.” HLF followed various security procedures outlined in the manual to include, hiring a security company to search the HLF for listening devices, ordering defendant Haitham Maghawri, (a fugitive) to take training on advanced methods in detecting wiretaps, shredding documents after board meetings, and maintaining incriminating documents in off-site locations.
All defendants were detained pending sentencing; a sentencing date is forthcoming. All defendants face substantial prison sentences.
Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, Dallas FBI, expressed appreciation for the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, the team of FBI Agents and staff, along with the Agents and staff of the Internal Revenue Service, Army Criminal Investigations Division, Dallas Police Department and Richardson Police Department for their efforts in this investigation. Mr. Casey said, “These men and women followed the evidence in this case even as it led them across the globe. Their personal sacrifices and dedication to preserve the security of the U.S. and ensure justice should be admired by citizens everywhere. The FBI will continue to keep the country safe by actively investigating all forms of terrorist threats, whether that threat manifests itself in the planning or execution of a violent terrorist act or other crimes that provide support to terrorist organizations.”
The case was prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas; Barry Jonas, Trial Attorney for the Department of Justice Counter-terrorism Section; and Elizabeth J. Shapiro, Deputy Director, Federal Programs Branch, Department of Justice, serving as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.