Holy Land Foundation, Supreme Court Decision - updated

Sheila Musaji

Posted Oct 28, 2012      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

Holy Land Foundation, Supreme Court Decision

by Sheila Musaji

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of the United States will make a decision about the Holy Land Foundation case.  This case has been going on for a decade, and its ramifications have been widespread.  The decision was first reported to be made on Friday, and then it was postponed until Monday.  This is an important case for religious freedom, and for civil rights.  Nevertheless, there has not been a lot published about this Supreme Court hearing.  Two articles that were published provide good coverage of the background of this case. 

Democracy now did an audio segment about this which included the introduction:  “The Supreme Court is set to decide today on whether to hear a challenge to the conviction of five former top officials with the Holy Land Foundation, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity. The five were convicted on charges of backing the Palestinian group Hamas, though they were never accused of supporting violence, instead for funding charities that aided Palestinians in need. On Thursday, supporters of the Holy Land Five rallied outside a federal building in Manhattan. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights said Holy Land had given money to groups also funded by the U.S. State Department.”

Allison Deger reports Holy Land Five appeal could set precedent on using ‘secret evidence’ in U.S. courts:

On Monday the Supreme Court is expected to decide if it will hear an appeal that could overturn the conviction of the co-founders and chief staff of the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas-based humanitarian organization and once was the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

Defendants Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad el-Mazain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, Abulrahman Odeh, or the Holy Land Five, were charged under the Material Support to Terrorist Act with the enhancement of the Patriot Act and convicted in 2008. Yet the sentences of 65-years and life, followed a first trial in 2007 that ended with a hung jury. The guilty verdict came after post-9/11 legal changes, which criminalized charitable donations to the besieged Gaza Strip, even though the Holy Land Foundation was donating to the same zakat charities that the U.S. government supported via USAID.

“This decision will come after 11 tumultuous years of raids, trials, arrests and appeals. This will be the last legal recourse for my father who is currently serving a sentence of 65 years,” said Noor Elashi, daughter of Ghassan Elashi at a press conference in New York City on Thursday.  ...  The Holy Land Five’s appeal could be a game changer in how “terrorism” cases are prosecuted. During the 2008 trial, for the first time in a U.S. criminal court “secret evidence” was used by an anonymous source.  A so-called Israeli intelligence expert testified under a pseudonym and said that the defendants had ties to Hamas. How did “Avi,” the Israeli intelligence officer, prove a “terror” affiliation? Elashi told me, while on the stand Avi said he “could smell Hamas.”

Attorney Michael Ratner says that Avi’s testimony violated the defendant’s sixth amendment right to face their accuser. This “screams to be heard by the Supreme Court and be reversed.” Relying on intelligence from a foreign country also reflects a troublesome sharing of intelligence between nations. If the Supreme Court decides to uphold the convictions it will mean that in future terror cases due process will be abandoned for an Israeli military court style system, which regularly imprisons Palestinians on secret evidence.

Natasha Lennerd reports that

The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until three months after 9/11, when the Bush administration shut it down following reports that the group had donated a portion of their foundation funds to schools and hospitals in Gaza through a “Zakat” (charity-giving) Committee that allegedly had connections to Hamas. After subsequent raids on the charity leaders’ homes and offices, arrests, and two trials (the first in 2007 ending in a hung jury), the Holy Land Five were convicted of conspiracy under the Material Support to Terrorists statute and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in federal prison.

A release announcing Thursday’s rally from the Sparrow Media Project noted that when the case was heard in 2007, Edward Abington, a diplomat who served as U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem during the 1990s, testified on behalf of HLF. He testified that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had given $47,000 to the same charitable committee alleged in the HLF indictment to have ties to Hamas. “Moreover, USAID has periodically contributed to the same Zakat Committee named in the indictments, from before the time of the HLF indictment until today,” the release noted, adding, “This double standard is circuitous because it implies that either USAID is using taxpayer money to ‘finance Hamas’ or that the allegations made against the HLF were baseless from the beginning.”

The ACLU in 2009 spoke out against the treatment of the Holy Land Five, noting that their treatment by the U.S. government “violated the fundamental rights of American Muslim Charities.” On October 26, the Supreme Court is expected to review the case against HLF, which defense attorneys say was problematically based on anonymous witness testimony. In a petition to the court, the defense challenges the prosecution’s reliance on hearsay and the testimony of an Israeli intelligence official who gave evidence under the fake pseudonym “Avi” — the first time in U.S. history that an expert witness was allowed to testify using a fake name.

This will be updated when the Supreme Court makes its’ decision.


The Supreme Court has denied the Holy Land Five appeal and will not be issuing a decision in the case. This almost definitely marks the end of the legal appeal process.


ACLU Challenges Government’s Stigmatizing Of Mainstream Muslim Groups In Holy Land Case http://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-challenges-governments-stigmatizing-mainstream-muslim-groups-holy-land-case

ACLU Report: Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/humanrights/blockingfaith.pdf

Charities to Contest U.S. Terrorism Screening Requirement http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A61327-2004Aug12?language=printer

Curbs on Muslim Charities Seen as Double Standard http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2001/Dec-27-Thu-2001/news/17740148.html

Criminalizing Compassion in the War on Terror: Muslim Charities and the Case of Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir, Katherine Hughes http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/criminalizing_compassion_in_the_war_on_terror_muslim_charities_and_the_case

Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir, The ‘Communications Management Unit” and the War on Muslim Charities, Katherine Hughes http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/dr_rafil_a_dhafir_the_communications_management_unit_and_the_war_on_muslim_

Decision: Holy Land Foundation Trial Didn’t Violate Confrontation Clause (anonymous testimony of two Israeli witnesses allowed) http://blogs.findlaw.com/fifth_circuit/2011/12/holy-land-foundation-trial-didnt-violate-confrontation-clause.html

Double Standard - for a view of a Double Standard see American Tax Shelter for Israeli War Criminal http://www.mpac.org/news_article_display.aspx?ITEM=385

Echoes of Korematsu: The Holy Land Foundation Five Trial, Noor Elashi   http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/echoes-of-korematsu-the-holy-land-foundation-five-trial

Holy Land Foundation Mistrial a ‘Stunning Defeat’ for Prosecution, CAIR http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/holy_land_foundation_mistrial_a_stunning_defeat_for_prosecution

Holy Land Foundation Charity seeks dismissal of terrorism charges http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/12/washington/12charity.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&

Holy Land Foundation trial reflects misguided US policy towards Hamas, Scott McConnell http://mondoweiss.net/2009/05/holy-land-foundation-trial.html

ISNA Commends ACLU for Report on Negative Impact of Government Policies on Muslim Charitable Giving http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/isna_commends_aclu_for_report_on_negative_impact_of_government_policies_on_

ISNA Statement on Holy Land Foundation Verdict http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/isna_statement_on_holy_land_foundation_verdict

Judge Unseals Verdict in Holy Land Foundation Muslim Charity Case, MPAC http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/judge_unseals_verdict_in_holy_land_foundation_muslim_charity_case

Muslim Charities: Denial of Due Process to Muslims Disgraces Us All, Katherine Hughes http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslim_charities_denial_of_due_process_to_muslims_disgraces_us_all

Prosecutors Asked for Justice in Holy Land Foundation Case and They Got It, Ahmad Al-Akhras, Ph.D.  http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/prosecutors_asked_for_justice_in_holy_land_foundation_case_and_they_got_it

Rally Calls for Release of “Holy Land Five”, Michael Ratner http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=9037

Unindicted co-conspirator Designation Not a Proof of Guilt, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/unindicted_co-conspirator_-_so_what