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The Holy Land Five – Victims or Terrorists?


For fifteen years the U.S. government
has claimed that the U.S. located Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, was a terrorist organization that funded Hamas.

Hoping to nail down evidence of their nefarious deeds,
the feds wire-tapped the Holy Land folks, seized the group’s files, and eventually succeeded in shutting down the organization itself in 2001—all without filing a single charge. Finally, in 2004, the feds arrested five of Holy Land’s top officials, and charged them with a combined 200 criminal counts—ranging from tax violations to materially helping terrorists. (Oh, and by the way, four of the men charged were American citizens.)

The problem was, after fifteen years and a whole lot of American taxpayer money, the government lawyers and investigators
couldn’t seem to prove wrongdoing—at least not so far as jury could figure it.

So, on Monday, the trial against those five Holy Land officers collapsed in a mistrial. According to a nicely-reported story by the LA Times’ Greg Krikorian, the whole thing was made stranger by the fact that the two jury holdouts at first failed to vote for conviction, if the jury foreperson is accurate. Or possibly they didn’t vote at all. Things still aren’t clear. Furthermore, the the two holdouts were observed to be sleeping throughout most of the trial and the later deliberations.

But whatever. After a two-month trial and nineteen days of deliberations, the government’s “landmark” terrorism finance case fell in on itself in a smoking pile of awful.

For the record, the Holy Land Officials maintained that the organization
had only ever raised money to help the poor of Palestine, particularly children.

The prosecution claimed the Holy Land’s money
was sent to “zakats”—charity committees—which were really fronts for terrorist activity.

Key defense testimony came from career diplomat Edward Abington, the former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem and the second-highest ranking intelligence officer in the State Department before his retirement. He told jurors he was briefed daily by the CIA and was never told that any of the zakat committees were under Hamas’ control.

Abington also recalled how he had personally visited each of the zakat charity committees named in the indictment and did not believe they were linked to terrorism.

Last year, one of my Irvine students reported on the arrest and two-year incarceration of another of the
Holy Land’s officers, which brought the larger case to my attention. (As it happens, my student did an excellent job researching and writing.)

The case sounded like egregious overreaching then,
and even more so now.


  • […] wrote an interesting post today on The Holy Land Five – Victims or Terrorists?Here’s a quick excerptThe Holy Land Five – Victims or Terrorists? October 23rd, 2007 by Celeste Fremon [ … the organization itself in 2001—all without filing a single charge, mind you. Finally, in 2004, the feds … charge were American citizens.) The problem was, after fifteen years and a whole lot of American […]

  • The efforts of the U.S. Justice Department were at least to make the U.S. safer, as opposed to the witch-hunt and millions of wasted tax dollars that Special Persecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent on a purely partisan political investigation over Democratic backers Valerie Plame and her lying husband Joe Wilson, for which Fitzgerald knew from the very beginning that no crime had been committed and for which he pursued obtaining a lone controversial conviction over conflicting memories as a face-saving, symbolic and shallow win. And, if our Justice Department had followed the tactics of purely political Democratic D.A. Ronnie Earle in his pursuit of Tom Delay, they would have presented the evidence to mulitple juries and threatened them until they got the result that they wanted.

    Oh, was this supposed to be about justice or just justice for people who threaten America rather than threaten the Democrats?

    The “nicely-reported story” failed to note precedence set by the Democrats. I’m always happy to fill in the gaps.

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