October 19, 2008
Update & Prayer Points
WEEK FOUR: Oct 14-17
Beyond a REASONABLE Doubt
The government continued to lay a solid foundation of evidence against the defendants in the 4th week of the Holy Land Foundation retrial showing ties of the individual defendants to the Hamas terrorist group dating back as far as the 1980’s. The intimidation factor is increasing, however, as the courtroom and overflow room has become packed 98% with supporters of the HLF and Hamas.
It is unreasonable to think that in 1995 when President Bill Clinton issued the first Executive Order naming Hamas as a terrorist organization and restricting U.S. residents from interaction with Hamas, that the defendants swore off their allegiance to Hamas. The reason for Clinton’s action was because Hamas is and always has been one of those Islamist Palestinian terror groups that refuse any peaceful negotiation with Israel. Hamas rejects the “Two State Solution” maintaining that the only Islamist option is for Israel to be wiped off the map. It is literally against their religion – or rather, to be more precise, it is against the Islamist interpretation of the Islamic religion.
One of the points that have not been adequately explained in this trial - although it allows huge wiggle-room for the defense - is explaining the political dynamic between the secular Fatah and the Islamist Hamas.
Defense attorneys have brought in testimony to explain away the close family relations of several of the defendants to the highest leaders of Hamas like Khalid Meshaal and Moussa Abu Marzook. In questioning they have had government witnesses admit that it is common in Palestinian families for one family member to be Hamas while another close family member to be in Fatah. That is the simple fact unfettered by the underlying dynamic of the past relationship between the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah and Hamas. Further, that explanation cannot be applied to these defendants and their Hamas leader relatives, whose Hamas affiliation has been well documented by the government for several decades past.
This is one of the complicated realities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that the government would do well to bring in to testimony. For the fact is that through most of the years even though Hamas was a separate entity from Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (which Fatah is a branch of), Hamas was always deeply allied with the PA and Fatah against their common enemy, Israel.
Where it suited both of their goals – and this would be the majority of the time – the two groups allied together against Israel. If Arafat wanted to apply pressure to force concessions by Israel and still maintain the illusion of “clean hands” among world governments, he could always give the nod to Hamas on terror attacks denying any control over them.
When Arafat died, however, the power struggle for control of the Palestinian street broke out in a real rivalry between Hamas and the PA/Fatah. Before Arafat’s death the PA/Fatah and Hamas were very much friendly “rivals” with the only real separation between them being the means each side believed was most effective to the same end. They were content most of the time to work in coordination with each other which is why in one immediate family the father might support Arafat’s PA/Fatah and the son participate as an activist in Hamas. It is not such a ‘family-friendly’ rivalry these days…and I won’t go into the reasons here for the sake of brevity.
Nevertheless, that family-friendly scenario is not what is happening in the family relationships of the Holy Land Foundation defendants and their relatives in the leadership of Hamas. At no time since the 1980’s have the Islamist HLF defendants been advocates and supporters of Fatah but they have consistently voiced support and done activities on behalf of Hamas. There was no sudden change from their position when the U.S. outlawed dealings with Hamas in 1995 and 1997. It is a ‘sleight of hand’ explanation that the defense is giving the jury on this and the only reason I can see that the government has not challenged that is in the difficulty of explaining the political dynamic of the complex relationship between Hamas and the PA/Fatah.
Pray that the government will remove this camouflage of deception.
HLF Security-Measures Testimony
One of the documents introduced into evidence this week was a security procedures document written in Arabic and seized by the FBI in a raid on the defendants’ offices. The security procedures (translated into English if you scroll down Infocom Search 35) was covered by the government prosecutor with a lead agent in that investigation, FBI Special Agent Robert Miranda.
The range of security measures advised in the document would be highly unusual for a real charity group, nevertheless defense attorneys countered with questioning the FBI agent about several examples where the defendants had not followed security procedures….like that could not be chalked up to sloppiness or even arrogance about not getting caught by the sleeping giant.
Pray that the jury will not accept flimsy excuses as “reasonable doubt”.
The Daughter Fills the Courtroom
On October 9th, the daughter of Ghassan Elashi, Noor, who is a spokeswoman for the defendants and a reporter on leave from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, issued an appeal for more supporters to come to the trial. Here is an excerpt:
"During the past three weeks, I have felt my heart shatter a few times as I witnessed prosecutors use vindictive approaches such as character assassination, fear-mongering and guilt by association as an attempt to convict my dad.
"Sitting in the courtroom, I've felt my blood boil and freeze and boil again in a few seconds time. And as I looked behind me, my eyes scanning the room in search for faces of encouragement and moral support, I found that it was mostly empty with the majority of the benches unoccupied."
Her appeal has been answered to the point that by this past Friday (10/17) the large court room was filled to capacity and the smaller overflow viewing courtroom on the 16th floor was near capacity by 10 AM. Few non-HLF supporters were able to hold seats in the courtroom on the day when a former HLF representative delivered damaging testimony about the HLF-Hamas connection.
Here are a few problems I see with that state of affairs.
First of all, when I got up to the 16th floor viewing room it was packed with adult Muslim men. There was no U.S. Marshal posted in the courtroom itself, although from time to time different marshals would come in and look around. Not the most comfortable situation I have ever found myself in.
Then at the mid-morning break all the adult men went up to the courtroom and a lot of teenagers were sent out of the court room to make room for the adults. They came to the 16th overflow room and some were not well behaved, nor quiet. At several points it was impossible to hear some of the testimony because the boys were not being controlled by the female chaperons. A couple of the boys were kicked out when one security officer came in while they were being mildly disruptive.
Between the mid-morning break and lunch, an Arabic man came in made an announcement in Arabic (which excluded only me from the announcement) and nearly the whole room jumped up and ran for the exit. Obviously some seats had become available in the court room. Shortly afterward some of the teenagers came back who unable to get seats in the courtroom.
Although there are VERY few people coming into that courtroom who are not supporters of the defendants, I believe it sends a very intimidating message to the jurors who are not seeing very much security between themselves and the public. It would be nice if some rows in the courtroom were reserved for government supporters for the same reason.
The Dallas Morning News reporter Jason Trahan in his coverage of the Friday session wrote that Judge Solis had to issue a warning to the courtroom during the testimony of Imam Shorbagi because of the disruptive murmuring of spectators telling each other, “He’s lying.” Purported Holy Land insider testifies
Pray that in the days ahead some adjustments will be made to inhibit the intimidation factor and to level the playing field so people who are there in support of the government’s case are also granted in-court seating. I have always believed that the jury needed to see people sitting in the spectator seats who were not rooting for the defendants, but the public seems to have little interest in this case.
No one minding the store
The public probably has little interest because the media – outside of Jason Trahan’s reporting – has no interest and that is evident by the total lack of newspaper reports following the trial nationally. The local television news came out for the opening statements and likely will not return until the closing statements and verdict. The truth is the media nor the public will ever know how strong the government evidence has been because they just aren’t paying attention.
It is a tragic thing to have the future of our homeland security so on the line as it is in this trial and for so few to be paying attention to what is even happening.
“While men slept, the enemy came in and sowed tares.”
If we don’t care about this, who is it exactly that is going to hold back the tide?
More reports on the testimony of Week 4, Oct 14-17, 2008
Former Holy Land Representative says charity collected money for Hamas.
Jason Trahan, Dallas Morning News
Trahan’s HLF trial coverage in the DMN CRIMEblog
A Security-Conscious Charity
The Investigative Project on Terrorism
U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas Website
USA v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development Exhibit List