Holy Land 5 appeal rejected by Supreme Court

By on October 31, 2012

Noor Elashi, daughter of Holy Land 5 defendant Ghassan Elashi, describes her father’s case in the following ex­cer­pted ­article, published Oct. 24 on The Electronic Intifada website. Actions were held on Oct. 25 in 10 U.S. cities to demand freedom for the Holy Land 5. On Oct. 26, the Supreme Court decided that it would not hear their case. Attorneys for the five and the Muslim Legal Fund of America are analyzing their options and plan to announce shortly how they will proceed.

Bill Dores of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression speaks at Oct. 25 protest in NYC.
WW photo: Anne Pruden

The [Supreme Court] decision will come after 11 tumultuous years of raids, arrests, trials and appeals. This will be the last legal recourse for the Holy Land Five charity leaders, who are now serving sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years. …

My father, Ghassan Elashi, has told me that when he co-founded the Holy Land Foundation in 1989, he knew it would be challenging because [U.S.] American foreign policy has been in favor of Israel, and thus, Palestinian sovereignty has not been a main concern.

Although the Holy Land Foundation’s funds were distributed across the world, a large percentage of their donations went to Palestine. So as the HLF blossomed, becoming the largest American Muslim charity, it came as no surprise that a campaign was launched against it in the 1990s. …

Prosecutors used the Material Support Statute, enhanced by the Patriot Act, to charge my father in 2004. The vague nature of the law made it easy for prosecutors to claim that the Holy Land Five gave “material support” in the form of charity (food, blankets, medicine, etc.) to Palestinian zakat (charity-giving) committees that were allegedly “controlled by or worked on behalf of” Hamas and thereby helped Hamas win the “hearts and minds” of Palestinians. …

None of the zakat committees are listed as designated terrorists by the Department of Treasury. In fact, these zakat committees, or distribution centers, listed on the Holy Land Foundation’s indictment also received funds from American government agencies, most notably USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

Although the first jury deadlocked on most counts, the jury from the second trial returned all guilty verdicts. My father received a sentence of 65 years and was moved away from my family in Dallas to a Communications Management Unit in rural Illinois. The CMU, located in the city of Marion, mostly holds Muslim men charged after 11 September 2001. The purpose of this secluded prison, opened during the Bush administration, is to restrict the amount of phone calls and visitations the inmates get, all while monitoring their every move. …

The Supreme Court is expected to review our petition for writ of certiorari. In this petition, the defense team states that the HLF case “presents the perfect opportunity for the court to determine whether or under what circumstances the prosecution can present anonymous witnesses.”

Anonymous witness’ testimony violates rights

They are referring to the prosecution’s star witness, an Israeli intelligence officer who testified under the false name of “Avi,” making it the first time in American history that an expert witness was allowed to testify using a pseudonym. Defense lawyers state that Avi’s testimony violated my father’s sixth amendment right to confront his accuser. …

In the petition, defense lawyers also argue that prosecutors presented hearsay evidence, documents that predated the 1995 designation of Hamas, documents with unknown authors and documents seized from co-conspirators who were not defendants in the HLF case. …

Now, with the upcoming elections less than two weeks away and as the highest court of the land decides on the fate of the Holy Land Five, I want to say to my father: no matter what happens in the next few days, let us not be brought down. Let us hold on to that patience and mercy as we keep moving onward. Remember, baba, we are approaching not the end, but the beginning. And you will remain in the consciousness of many until the day you are exonerated.

To learn more about the HLF case, visit www.freedomtogive.com.

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