Bad News for Holy Land Defendants

While Islamist organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), are celebrating Monday's declared mistrial in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case in Dallas, the defendants and their supporters might want to keep the non-alcoholic champagne on ice for the moment. A major development last week, along with the Department of Justice's vow to press forward with retrying the case, does not bode well for the defendants.

Last week, the Palestinian Authority closed down all of the zakat committees because of their ties to HAMAS. The decision, announced last Thursday by Jamal Bawattna, PA Minister of Religious Endowments, strikes at the key contention of the defense in the Holy Land case - that the zakat committees who received funds from the Holy Land Foundation had no known ties to HAMAS. While this angle hasn't been reported in the Western press, the English-language jihadist forums  have been abuzz with the news (CAUTION: link is to the HAMAS al-Qassam website).

The cash value of this decision is that now all sides, including the Palestinian Authority (who closed the zakat committees to rid them of their HAMAS control) and HAMAS itself (who publicly decry the PA's decision because they admit that the committees were under their control), immediately contradict the cardinal claim of the HLF's defense. Thus, the primary defense witness, former U.S. Consul General Edward Abington, who served at the US consulate in Jerusalem and claimed during the trial on behalf of the defense that the zakat committees did not help HAMAS, has quickly become the lone voice making that case. Thus, the DOJ prosecutors have new evidence that will flatly refute Abington's testimony.

It should also be noted that the acquittal of the HLF itself doesn't let it off the hook, nor does it vindicate the organization and its supporters. As the Investigative Project explains, not only has a federal court already found that HLF supported HAMAS in a major $156 million judgment in a civil case, but two other federal courts have established the connections as well.
The U.S. Treasury Department shut down HLF in December 2001 by designating it as a terrorist organization and freezing its assets. HLF lost its challenge of that order in 2002, with U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler finding "ample evidence that (1) HLF has had financial connections to Hamas since its creation in 1989; (2) HLF leaders have been actively involved in various meetings with Hamas leaders; (3) HLF funds Hamas-controlled charitable organizations; (4) HLF provides financial support to the orphans and families of Hamas martyrs and prisoners; (5) HLF's Jerusalem office acted on behalf of Hamas; and (6) FBI informants reliably reported the HLF funds Hamas."

The appeals court for Washington, D.C. upheld Kessler's ruling.

The HLF defendants may rue the day that their case was ruled a mistrial. This new damning evidence regarding the zakat committees gives the DOJ a hard second bite at the apple.