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Closing Arguments In HLF Trial
IPT (with thanks to Jeffrey Imm): DALLAS - A federal prosecutor and the attorney for the lead defendant in the terror-support trial of five Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) officers traded accusations of deception Monday during closing arguments.
When federal prosecutor Barry Jonas accused the defendants of trying to deceive the American public, he pointed to their own conversations captured on surveillance tapes.
"War is deception," former HLF President Shukri Abu Baker said during a secret gathering of Hamas supporters in 1993.
Defense attorney Nancy Hollander, in turn, appealed to distrust of the government and challenged evidence presented by an Israeli security witness who testified under a pseudonym.
Jonas reminded jurors that investigators found a security manual with instructions how to avoid detection at one of the defendant's offices and that HLF officers used the word "Samah" rather than HAMAS in their conversations. In 2000, they had their office swept for bugs.
"Is this what a real charity would do?" Jonas asked repeatedly.
He pointed to Baker's 2002 sworn declaration in which he claimed to "reject and abhor Hamas, its goals and its methods" as part of a civil suit. But Baker also published an ode to Hamas in the Arabic publication Ila Filastin. "Hayzum (Gabriel's horse) Hamas has arrived," it concludes, "and we will not accept any other than Hamas." The poem was followed by a solicitation for donations to the Occupied Land Fund, HLF's original name.
Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammad El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh are charged in a 42-count indictment with providing material support to HAMAS. Closing arguments continue today after six weeks of the trial. Prosecutors say they funneled more than $12 million to the Specially Designated Terrorist group, largely through charity organizations in the West Bank and Gaza called zakat committees.
Jonas referred jurors to exhibits showing various zakat committees and the hundreds of thousands of dollars HLF sent to each of them.
He also showed video tapes and played audio intercepts showing the defendants knew of Hamas' violent objectives and that they supported them. From that secret Philadelphia meeting, called to discuss ways to "derail" the nascent Oslo Peace accord, to fundraising tours featuring speeches by Hamas members and affiliates to entertainment the defendants organized including songs praising Hamas and skits in which one pretends to kill an Israeli.
Defense attorneys say the men provided basic sustenance - food, education, medicine - to Palestinians living in desperate poverty.
That support, though, was a key component in efforts to win Palestinian hearts and minds for Hamas, Jonas said. The Hamas charter, which never has been amended, still demands the state of Israel's destruction. Works by its social wing are merely "a means to an end," Jonas said...