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.
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 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.?