Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fifth Circuit Affirms Criminal Convictions of Holy Land Foundation and Its Leaders

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has affirmed the convictions of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five of its leaders for providing material aid and support to a designated terrorist organization, in this case Hamas.  Here is the court's summary of the opinion:

    In this consolidated case, we address the appeals of five individuals and one corporate defendant convicted of conspiracy and substantive offenses for providing material aid and support to a designated terrorist organization. The terrorist organization at issue is Hamas, which in 1995 was named a Specially
Designated Terrorist by Presidential Executive Order pursuant to authority granted by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. Hamas was further designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, as contemplated by 18 U.S.C. § 2339B.
    Although this case is related to terrorism, it does not involve charges of specific terrorist acts. Instead, it focuses on the defendants’ financial support for terrorism and a terrorist ideology. The defendants were charged with aiding Hamas by raising funds through the corporate entity Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based, pro-Palestinian charity that the Government charged was created for the sole purpose of acting as a financing arm for Hamas. Although the charged conspiracy began in 1995 when Hamas was first designated as a terrorist organization, the defendants’ connection to Hamas arose much earlier.
    Established in the late 1980s, the Holy Land Foundation held itself out as the largest Muslim charitable organization in the United States. It raised millions of dollars over the course of its existence that were then funneled to Hamas through various charitable entities in the West Bank and Gaza. Although these entities performed some legitimate charitable functions, they were actually Hamas social institutions. By supporting such entities, the defendants facilitated Hamas’s activity by furthering its popularity among
Palestinians and by providing a funding resource. This, in turn, allowed Hamas to concentrate its efforts on violent activity. The trial, which followed an earlier mistrial and lasted approximately six weeks, produced a massive record on appeal. The Government produced voluminous evidence obtained from covert surveillance, searches, and testimony showing a web of complex relationships connecting the defendants to Hamas and its various sub-groups. The financial link between the Holy Land Foundation and Hamas was established at the Foundation’s genesis and continued until it was severed by the Government’s intervention in 2001. The defendants raise a host of issues challenging both their convictions and their sentences, including numerous errors that they claim deprived them of a fair trial. While no trial is perfect, this one included, we conclude from our review of the record, briefs, and oral argument, that the defendants were fairly convicted. For the reasons explained below, therefore, we AFFIRM the district court’s judgments of conviction of the individual defendants. We DISMISS the appeal of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.


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