Thursday, November 27, 2008
Leaders of Holy Land Foundation Convicted of Terrorism Related Charges; American Muslim Community Shocked and Divided
From the Voice of America:
U.S. prosecutors have convicted five leaders of a now-defunct Muslim charity of channeling some $12 million to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. A federal court in the southwestern city of Dallas, Texas Monday found the men guilty of 108 separate charges. They were former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, which organizers said collected money for poverty-stricken Palestinians affected by the conflict with Israel. The group was the largest Muslim-run charity in the United States before it was shut down by the U.S. government in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This was the second attempt at a trial. The first ended in October 2007 after the judge declared a mistrial. The defendants in the case denied sending money to Hamas and said the charges were politically motivated. The United States declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1995, making contributions to it illegal.
The jury’s conviction of five Holy Land leaders on all 108 criminal counts took many Muslim leaders by surprise because a previous trial last year ended in a hung jury. “So far, the reaction has been one of shock more than anything else,” said Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, an advocacy group based in Bethesda, Md. “Even the people who are usually very quick to comment on events, positively or negatively, are so stunned by this that they seem to be at a loss for words.” Mr. Ahmad said the verdict would further confuse donors to Islamic charities, many of whom have been wary of giving to Islamic groups since Sept. 11. “It seems to give a green light for further intimidation of Muslim charities,” he said. “It makes people even more unsure of what they are supposed to do to avoid having a problem.”