Thursday, 28 May 2009


US jails men in Hamas aid case


A US court has sentenced the former heads of a Muslim
charity to 65 years in prison for providing aid to the
Palestinian group Hamas.

Shukri Abu-Baker, the charity's ex-chief executive, and
Ghassan Elashi, its former chairman, were two of five Holy
Land Foundation employees convicted last year of giving
more than $12m to Hamas.

"I did it because I cared, not at the behest of Hamas,"
Abu-Baker told a Texas court on Wednesday, according to a
Dallas Morning News website report.

Holy Land's co-founder, Mohamed El-Mezain, who is related
to Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader, was sentenced to 15
years in jail for providing aid to the group.

The others, Mufid Abdulqader, the brother of Hamas
political leader Khaled Meshaal, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the
charity's New Jersey representative, were convicted on
three counts of conspiracy.

Odeh was sentenced to 15 years while Abdulqader, the
foundation's fundraiser, received 20 years.

'Inspired faith'

"I do acknowledge the verdict in this trial," Abdulqader
said during the sentencing hearing.

"I believe in the system. My faith has not been shaken,
it's been inspired. But it is un-American to ignore
suffering and starving women and children."

Abu-Baker and Elashi were convicted of a combined 69
charges, including supporting a specially designated
"terrorist" organisation, money-laundering and tax fraud.

Abdulqader and Odeh were convicted on three counts of

The Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity
in the US, was itself convicted on all 32 counts.

An earlier trial ended in October 2007 with one man
acquitted on 31 charges but jurors unable to agree on
verdicts for others.

'Political' case

Prosecutors said the charity was spreading Hamas's ideology
by funding schools, hospitals and social welfare programmes
controlled by the group in the Palestinian territories, and
permitting it to divert funds to the activities of

The charity's supporters countered that the government was
politicising the case as part of its so-called war on
terror and ignoring the foundation's charitable mission in
providing aid to the poverty-stricken Palestinian

Government officials had raided Holy Land's headquarters in
December 2001, and George Bush, the then US president,
later announced the seizure of the charity's assets as
"another step in the war on terrorism".

But defence lawyers said their clients had been put on
trial partly because of their family ties to members of
Hamas, such as Abdulqader's brother Meshaal, who is in
exile in Syria.

As grounds for an expected appeal, lawyers for the men are
expected to challenge testimony given by an anonymous
Israeli government agent, whose evidence was kept secret
from the defence.

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