In 2008, a jury convicted the ‘Holy Land Foundation Five’ – Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammed El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mufid Abdulqader – of using a network of Palestinian charities controlled by Hamas for funneling money to the terrorist group. In America, relatives, children and designated terrorist group CAIR have been demanding release of the five ever since. But their pleas have fallen on deaf ears – even on Barack Hussein Obama’s oversized ones.
IPT Advocates are pushing social media campaigns and online petitions aimed at securing a pardon, or, short of that, a commutation of the five men’s sentences to set them free. The campaign also has enlisted support from at least one member of Congress.
Left unspoken is an undeniable truth behind the pardon/commutation campaign, and behind any ongoing defense of the Holy Land Foundation: Advocates do not believe Hamas support is wrong.
The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is leading the charge, supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and pro-Palestinian groups. CAIR’s Arizona director Imraan Siddiqi described the prosecution as “a political lynching of charity workers … Its effects still haunt American Muslims.”
After reviewing the entire record in 2011, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals saw it quite differently. Pleas from the MLFA and Siddiqi ignore the exhibits – many of them internal HLF and related documents – showing the family ties between some defendants and Hamas leaders, a reliance on Hamas officials to speak at HLF fundraisers along with other, consistent pro-Hamas messages.
In addition, records show, HLF (formerly known as the Occupied Land Fund) was part of a network called the “Palestine Committee” in the United States. That committee answered to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s mandate that global chapters create “Palestine Committees” in their home countries.
Their task was “to support Hamas from abroad,” the Fifth Circuit noted in upholding the convictions and sentences. In the United States, that task fell in part to Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who helped create HLF and two other branches – a propaganda wing known as the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and a think-tank called the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR).
CAIR was added to the Palestine Committee after its 1994 founding.
“The evidence showed that the long-standing connection between HLF and Hamas began in the late 1980s when HLF arose as a fundraising arm for the Palestine Committee …” the appeals court ruling said. “
HLF apologists claim the group was merely interested in helping needy widows and orphans. But, the court pointed out, the orphans included Yehia Ayyash’s children. Ayyash was Hamas’s top bomb maker, nicknamed “The Engineer,” before being killed by Israel.
“An audio tape from 1996 that was seized from HLF’s offices contained songs praising Hamas and discussions of suicide bombers as heroes,” the ruling said. “We believe that a jury could not help but infer from the above evidence that the defendants had a close association with Hamas and that HLF acted to fund Hamas both before and after Hamas’s designation as a terrorist organization.”
Still, CAIR’s Texas chapter called the five convicted HLF officials “humanitarians,” and described their imprisonment as “an immense wrong.” It cited defense attorney Nancy Hollander’s claim that there was no evidence showing her client, HLF executive director Shukri Abu Baker, breaking the law. “Not a word from his lips that he hated Jews. Not a word from his lips that he supported Hamas. These were fictions,” Hollander said.
The current campaign would settle for a sentencing commutation, essentially freeing the men on time served. The sentences, from 15 to 65 years in prison, were overly harsh, advocates say.
But the Fifth Circuit had considered this, too, rejecting defense department arguments. Its ruling noted that the probation office’s presentence recommendations included significant terrorism enhancements because HLF gave money to Hamas “in order to rid Palestine of the Jewish people through violent jihad, HAMAS’ mission.”
It added that “the trial was replete with evidence to satisfy application of the terrorism enhancement because of the defendants’ intent to support Hamas. The Hamas charter clearly delineated the goal of meeting the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with violent jihad and the rejection of peace efforts and compromise solutions. The defendants knew that they were supporting Hamas, as there was voluminous evidence showing their close ties to the Hamas movement.”