Cross-examination of FBI agent begins (August 8, 2007)

The courtroom did not have the usual dimness caused by irrationality on Wednesday, August 8, 2007. Rather, an aura of clear logic made the room seem brighter than normal as the defense lawyers began cross-examining FBI agent Lara Burns. With a couple loud laughs and a few quick smiles, the jurors seemed more alert as many leaned forward to see and hear a different kind of evidence. After a week of the government’s direct examination of Burns along with an overload of videos, documents and wiretapped phone calls, it was obvious that the jury was ready for a new atmosphere.

Prosecutor Jim Jacks quickly displayed a few more documents, played one more tapped phone conversation between defendants Ghassan Elashi and Shukri Abu Baker, read part of a sworn statement by Abu Baker and admit several other documents into the record before finally ending the seven-day direct examination of Burns.

After the mid-morning break, defendant Abdulrahman Odeh’s attorney, Greg Westfall, began the cross-examination of Burns by displaying the U.S. terrorist designations of a few individuals that the government tried to link to the Holy Land Foundation. He read aloud names and dates: Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin wasn’t designated as a terrorist by the U.S. government until January 1995. Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook was designated in August 1995. And Khalid Mishal was declared as a terrorist in August 2003.

Burns then said that all but one of the videos and intercepted phone calls played during the past couple of weeks — which discussed Hamas — were in fact made from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Westfall continued by adding that it was in fact not illegal to praise or send money to Hamas officials before they were designated. Westfall displayed some documents the government previously showed that had no dates or signatures, implying that they lacked credibility. He then pointed out that all the transactions made between the HLF/defendants and Abu Marzook occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s — long before the designation of Abu Marzook.

He then made clear that Odeh did not participate in the speeches and skits included in any of the Intifada festival videos. He was never an official of the Islamic Association of Palestine, neither was he an attendee of the 1993 Philadelphia meeting where several individuals — including the defendants — gathered to discuss the Oslo accord between Palestinians and Israelis.

Westfall then displayed a few videos showing the jury the type of person that Odeh was — a relief worker. One video showed a semi transporting tons of sugar, flour and rice to a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Egypt, near Gaza. Another clip showed Odeh passing out the bags of food to a long line of Palestinians who were displaced due to the Israeli occupation. An additional clip showed the HLF keeping files of who receives the food. And yet another video showed Odeh in the Eastern-European country of Albania, where the HLF gave Kosovar refugees a mobile bakery, a couple ambulances and about 1,000 tons of flour.

He concluded by displaying HLF documents showing the large size and low income of each family and the amount of donations they received. He then asked Burns if these people needed aid. According to the documentation, Burns replied. He then asked if the families should be denied aid because a family member was arrested by the Israeli government. Burns’ reply was interrupted by an objection by government attorney Jim Jacks. The judge then sustained Jacks’ objection and Westfall ended his cross-examination of Burns.

Toward the end of the day, Nancy Hollander, Shukri Abu Baker’s lawyer, began cross-examining Burns. She asked Burns if she knew that Ishaq Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who helped sign the Oslo accord, was killed by a Jewish man who opposed the Oslo accord. Burns said she was not aware of that fact. Hollander then questioned Burns about two checks that were mentioned during Burns’ direct examination. Abu Marzook sent the checks to the Holy Land Fund, a different charity from the Holy Land Foundation. so, Hollander said the U.S. government’s original summary of the check was inaccurate because it stated that the Holy Land Foundation received the two checks. Hollander will continue cross-examination of Burns on Thursday.

Let’s pray that the jury will open their eyes, ears, minds and hearts and understand the truth.

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