Wednesday, November 26, 2008
CAIR staggered by Holy Land verdict: one of its founding directors could get 20 years in the slammer
"Guilty verdicts in terror case deal blow to CAIR: Founding director of U.S. Muslim lobby group could face 20 years in prison," from WND, November 25 (thanks to Doug):
In a major blow to the terror-support network in America, the nation's largest Muslim charity and five of its former organizers were found guilty of illegally funneling more than $12 million to the Palestinan terrorist group Hamas. The 108-count verdict against the Holy Land Foundation also deals a blow to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror-fundraising scheme.
One of the guilty defendants in the federal case, Ghassan Elashi, was a founding director of Washington-based CAIR, the most powerful Muslim lobbyist group in the nation.
Elashi and the other defendants – Mohamed El-Mezain, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdelrahman Odeh – could face up to 20 years in prison for their convictions on conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
For the first time, wiretap evidence heard in the Holy Land case put CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad, at a Philadelphia meeting of Hamas leaders and activists that was secretly recorded by the FBI. Participants hatched a plot to disguise payments to Hamas terrorists as charitable giving.
"Government officials ought to study that evidence to realize CAIR is not what it presents itself as," said Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Awad maintains CAIR is a "moderate" group that condemns terrorism.
But during the Philadelphia meeting, according to FBI transcripts, Awad was recorded discussing the propaganda effort. He mentions Ghassan Dahduli, whom he worked with at the time at the Islamic Association for Palestine, another Hamas front. Both were IAP officers.
Dahduli's name also was listed in the address book of Osama bin Laden's personal secretary, Wadi al-Hage, who is serving a life sentence in prison for his role in the U.S. embassy bombings. Dahduli, an ethnic-Palestinian like Awad, was deported to Jordan after 9/11 for refusing to cooperate in the terror investigation.
Awad's and Dahduli's phone numbers are listed in a Muslim Brotherhood document seized by federal investigators revealing "important phone numbers" for the "Palestine Section" of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. The court exhibit shows Hamas fugitive Mousa Abu Marzook listed on the same page with Awad.
U.S. prosecutors also named CAIR's founder and chairman emeritus, Omar Ahmad, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case. Ahmad too was placed at the Philadelphia meeting, FBI special agent Lara Burns testified at the trial.
Prosecutors also designated him as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's "Palestine Committee" in America. Ahmad, like his CAIR partner Awad, is ethnic Palestinian.
Though both Ahmad and Awad were senior leaders of IAP, the original Hamas front, neither of their biographical sketches posted on CAIR's website mentions their IAP past.
Elashi, one of CAIR's founding directors, was chairman of the Dallas-based Holy Land charity, which provided seed capital to CAIR. Elashi is related to Hamas leader Marzook.
Prosecutors argued, and a Dallas jury agreed, that Holy Land was the Hamas fundraising arm in America.
Hamas was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1995, and the trial centered on the $12 million the government said Holy Land and supporters funneled to the group after that date.
The conspiracy, prosecutors argued, was overseen by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egypt-based jihadist group that authorities say is the parent organization of Hamas.
Prosecutors unveiled a secret Muslim Brotherhood memo outlining the group's ambitions in America. The memo, written in Arabic, called for "a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions."
Douglas Farah, a former Washington Post foreign correspondent who is now an author and terrorism expert, says the memo reveals the "true agenda" of Holy Land, CAIR and other major Muslim organizations in the U.S. – which is "the abolition of the United States government as we know it and support for a designated terrorist organization."
He added that the trial exhibits validate what already was "a clear public record of why these groups were founded and how."
CAIR co-founder Ahmad, along with CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper, are on record in media accounts expressing their desire to turn the U.S. into an Islamic state. Ahmad has said, according to a newspaper report, the Quran, not the U.S. Constitution, should be the highest authority in the land.
Defense attorneys argued that the Holy Land Foundation was a legitimate charity "guilty of nothing but feeding Palestinian children" under Israeli "occupation." They accused the government of bending to Israeli pressure and of relying on evidence predating the 1995 terror designation.
"It's a sad day," said Mohammed Wafa Yaish, Holy Land's former accountant and a defense witness. "It looks like helping the needy Palestinians is a crime these days."
Defense attorneys declined to comment but are already discussing plans for appeals, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The jury, which took eight days to reach its decision, also said Holy Land should forfeit $12.4 million because of several money-laundering convictions in the case. Prosecutors said the government probably will end up with about $5 million in Holy Land money frozen by federal authorities in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.
The Justice Department streamlined its case after a mistrial last year. It also persuaded the judge to allow documents from the Palestinian Authority that were not in evidence in the first trial, which showed that the PA considered the Holy Land Foundation to be among international sources of Hamas funding. They also showed that certain Islamic charity committees that HLF sent funds to were indeed associated with Hamas.
"This is one of the most significant victories the Justice Department has won in the war on terror," said Andrew McCarthy, a federal prosecutor who put away blind cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and other terrorists for plotting to blow up New York landmarks last decade.
"Financing is the lifeblood of jihadist organizations like Hamas," he added.
"With the assistance of willing co-conspirators, they conceal their activities and use the Muslim obligation of charitable giving to mask support that is actually channeled to their murderous agenda."
McCarthy said the verdicts reached by average citizens show that "Americans aren't fooled and won't tolerate it."
Some Muslim groups fear the conviction of America's largest charity on terror charges will have a chilling effect on Islamic giving, known as zakat.
CAIR on its website invokes the Muslim obligation of charitable giving in soliciting donations from Muslims.
"CAIR is zakat eligible," it says.
The group also quotes an Islamic "scholar" decreeing, "Muslims should have no hesitation in giving part of their zakat to CAIR."
CAIR's Ahmad joined in discussions recorded in Philadelphia to disguise payments to terrorists as charitable giving. In one exchange, defendant Abu-Baker is heard telling Ahmad that "I swear by Allah that war is deception" and to "deceive your enemy."
Adding to Abu-Baker's point, Ahmad compared the deception needed to fool the infidels with the head fake in basketball.
"He makes a player believe that he is doing this while he does something else," Ahmad said. "I agree with you. ... Politics is a completion of war."
Wiretaps also caught defendants celebrating Hamas terrorist attacks on civilians. Jurors watched a video of a skit in which one defendant plays a Hamas terrorist who kills an Israeli citizen after saying, "I am Hamas, O dear ones."
The jury was also shown evidence that Holy Land Foundation bookkeepers hid Arab bank accounts from the IRS and tried to conceal records of payments made from the overseas accounts to Hamas zakat committees.
Prosecutors argued that the fraudulent bookkeeping showed that the charity's officials knew they were doing something criminal and tried to cover it up.