Friday, May 29, 2009
The New York Times (based on an AP story) reports that a federal court sentenced the two founding members of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development to 65 years in prison each for funneling millions of dollars to Hamas. We previously blogged about their conviction on 108 counts in a second trial, after their first trial ended in a mistrial, as well as about the closing arguments in the second trial, the decision by prosecutors to drop a number of charges after the failed first trial, and the ACLU's attempt to remove the names of two other Islamic Charities removed from all court documents. The Dallas Morning Newsreports that the three other convicted defendants received sentences ranging from 15 to 20 years, and that all five defendants continued to defend their actions.
For early commentary on the sentences, see this OMB Watch statement ("Holy Land Foundation Sentencing Raises Questions for U.S. Charitable Sector") and this Dallas Morning News editorial ("Holy Land Defendants Got What They Deserved"). I am not familiar enough with the facts of the case to comment on the correctness of the convictions or the sentences, but the convictions underline the need for U.S. based charities engaging in international charitable work to ensure they know where their funds are going and that the recipients have not been identified as terrorist organizations, even if they also do truly charitable work.