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Friday, 19 June 2009
Convicted Holy Land Foundation founders are International Fugitives

Pajamas media has a report "Convicted Hamas Fundraisers On the Run," that is mindboggling. The convicted Holy Land Foundation founders, Haithem Maghawri and Akram Mishal, both naturalized citizens, are international fugitives from justice. Mishal is a cousin of  Hamas political and military leader in Damascus, Syria,  Khaled Mashaal.   You would  think the Justice Department and the FBI, after eight years, two trials (one mistrial) would have put them on the 'no fly list"?   Instead they decamped with their wives and children for parts unknown in July 2004,  when the original federal indictment was handed down.   Maghwari and Mishal were sentenced along with three other accomplices  on May 20th  to 145 years by Dallas Federal Judge Jorge  Solis  for their roles in funneling millions to  Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization designated by our State Department. 

Note what Pajamas media author Todd Bensman says about this.

Maghawri and Mishal were early HLF founders and high-level charity insiders, according to the indictment. The Lebanon-born Maghawri served as HLF executive director. Mishal, a cousin of supreme Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in Syria, served as the HLF’s grants and projects director.

Perhaps sensing trouble, Maghawri and Mishal left the country just ahead of the July 2004 indictment. Wives and children disappeared too, abandoning Dallas houses and friends.

Oddly, their disappearances or prospects for capture are almost never publicly discussed.

As a reporter who for years covered the HLF investigation and later the indictment phase, I got to wondering about the seemingly forgotten fugitives. Are they really not on anyone’s radar? What do the feds know about their whereabouts? What, if anything, is being done to locate and nab them? Are they alive or dead?

I called some of my old federal contacts who spent years working on the case, looking for answers. Granted, these two fugitives aren’t the bombing types, as far as anyone knows. But they’re accused of playing important supporting roles that made it ultimately possible for Hamas suicide bombers to kill Israelis and also no small number of Americans visiting Israel.

As long as they’re at large, the Holy Land Foundation matter will remain an open book for the Obama administration now. If these two fugitives ever are caught, there will have to be yet another expensive and emotionally taxing Holy Land Foundation trial.

And where are Maghawri and Mishal?  Under the protection of Mishal's cousin Marshaal in Syria. Bensman notes:

The last anyone heard, Mishal was living in the protective custody of Syria, which plays host to cousin Khalid Mishal and all of Hamas’ other top leaders. Among these is another former Dallas resident who helped set up the Holy Land Foundation, Musa Abu Marzook.

As for Maghawari, he is believed to be living in either Lebanon or Gaza, or moves between them.

There is no known currently active American effort to hunt them down. The CIA or the intelligence branch of the FBI would be the agencies involved. These American agencies would no doubt have to work in concert with foreign intelligence services, like maybe Mossad, to track and corner either man for a capture. But no one I spoke to was aware of anything fresh going on. If anything, the plan is to sit back and hope.

A few years back, red notices — the equivalents of arrest warrants — were filed for Mishal and Maghawri with Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization.

And what do former and current FBI agents believe will eventually happen to fugitives  Maghawri and Mishal?  Let us say that  our government is playing a waiting game to apprehend them if they leave their Syrian and Gaza safe havens.

Former Supervisory Special Agent Tino Perez left the bureau four years ago but spent years working the HLF investigation. No longer in the know, or in the bureau, Perez was blunt in his speculative assessment:

"If they catch them, it’ll probably be by accident. What’s the severity of their crimes? If life and limb were at stake, there would be a CIA operation abroad or the FBI would coordinate. But something as benign as fund raising — I don’t mean to belittle that — but fund raising is not a threat per se. They’re probably on the B list, if that high"."

One current FBI agent offered this assurance:

"As long as they’re out there, they’re going to have to watch their backs. They’re good for 15-65 (year prison terms). They’re not going to be forgotten, at least not while some of us are still employed."

Perhaps no one followed the HLF investigation and trials more closely than Mark Briskman, head of the Dallas branch of the Anti-Defamation League. When I called Briskman, he admitted, “I’ve not even asked the question, quite candidly. But it’s a good question.”

He believes the nation never hears about Mishal and Maghawri because:

"The media hasn’t paid attention to them. That would be important, to make people understand that there are still two fugitives. As successful as the government has been with of five of the seven, the work is still undone. Clearly if they’re not captured they’ll continue to do their work in supporting the terrorist organization Hamas. I don’t think the final chapter is over. That’s my clear belief."

It looks like it  may be up to Mossad to write the final chapter on the fate of Maghawri and Mishal.  After all, Mossad was rumored to have finally assassinated mass terrorist Imad Mugniyeh in a car bombing in Damascus after more than two decades and countless American Marines, Israeli and Argentinian Jews were killed or seriously injured.




Posted on 06/19/2009 6:48 AM by Jerry Gordon
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