Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Federal Jury: Charity Guilty on All Counts

On November 24, a Dallas federal jury found the Holy Land Foundation and five of its organizers guilty on 108 separate charges connected with illegally funnneling at least $12 million to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization. The government's first attempt at prosecuting the charity ended in a mistrial in 2007. This jury rejected defense claims that the now-defunct foundation, which U.S. officials shut down in 2001, was a legitimate charity. According to the Dallas Morning News...
The verdicts are a major triumph for the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush, whose efforts at fighting terrorism financing have been troubled. Two other similar high-profile prosecutions targeting supporters of Palestinian militants have ended in acquittals, deadlocked juries or convictions on lesser charges...

Terrorism experts say Monday's verdicts demonstrate that complicated terrorism financing cases can be successfully prosecuted in American criminal courts. The verdicts also lend credibility to the Treasury Department's oft-criticized program of designating terrorist entities and freezing assets.

The verdict "sends a crystal-clear message that the United States will neither allow itself to serve as a cash cow for terrorist groups nor allow the charitable sector to be abused by groups financing terrorism under the cover of charity," said Matt Levitt, a Hamas expert and former high-ranking government intelligence official who testified in both trials.
The convictions were a culminaton of a 15-year investigation. The Holy Land Foundation was once the largest Islamic charity in the U.S. The U.S. State Department has formally designated Hamas as one of 44 foreign terrorist organizations.

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