An Important Story
With Amy Goodman
"The now-defunct Holy Land Foundation was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States. It collected donations for local committees providing humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The government had accused it of providing “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization. But jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict and the US district judge declared a mistrial on most of the charges. We speak to David Cole, Professor of Law at Georgetown University and Khalil Meek, President of the Muslim Legal Fund of America......
The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States. It collected donations for local committees providing humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the US government claimed the committees were controlled by Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization since 1995. The case against Holy Land Foundation relied on Israeli intelligence and disputed documents and electronic surveillance gathered by the FBI over a span of 15 years. However, one juror told the Los Angeles Times that the government case had “so many gaps” the prosecution was “a waste of time.”
This case is one of numerous material support prosecutions. Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project said the material support statute “criminalizes guilt by association” and could be used to prosecute innocent donors......
DAVID COLE: Well, it was nearly six years ago, in December 2001. All their assets were frozen. All of their records were seized. The entity was shut down without a hearing, without a trial, without even a statement of reasons. And when the group sought to challenge that designation and that freezing in court, the court refused to allow the Holy Land Foundation to introduce evidence in its own defense and relied on secret evidence that the government presented to it behind closed doors, so that the foundation couldn’t respond, and rejected its arguments that this whole process violated due process by depriving it of its property without any meaningful opportunity to defend itself.
AMY GOODMAN: What exactly have you come to understand now at this point was the evidence, the secret evidence? Both US and Israeli?
DAVID COLE: Well, it was US and Israeli, and it was gathered, as you suggested, over a course of fifteen years. But what’s most remarkable is that even though they subjected this group to fifteen years of surveillance, they found not one piece of evidence that showed that this group was funding Hamas itself during the period since 1995, when Hamas -- when it was illegal to fund Hamas. And instead, the argument that they made in court was that it’s not that you funded Hamas, but you funded these zakat committees; you should have known that these humanitarian aid local zakat committees in Ramallah, in Hebron, etc., were in fact fronts for or otherwise associated with Hamas.
But the government has the power to designate as terrorist any front or affiliate or associate of Hamas, and it hasn’t ever to this day designated any of these committees. So the government is basically saying, you should be put in jail, not for funding a group that we put on a blacklist -- Hamas -- but for funding groups that we chose not to put on a blacklist, but you should have known that they would have been on the blacklist anyway. It’s a real stretch, and I think that’s why the jury did not reach a single guilty conviction on 197 counts......."