Cross-examination of FBI agent continues (August 13, 2007)

The day was short, lasting until noon, but it wasn’t sweet on Monday, August 13, 2007.
Sitting behind a large wooden desk and wearing a black shiny robe, U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish sustained much of the government attorneys’ objections. Sometimes leaning his head back and other times sitting up straight on his black leather chair, he mostly agreed with the governments’ claims that the defense was presenting hearsay and irrelevant evidence. Many found the government’s objections absurd, especially because the majority of the government’s evidence is based on hearsay. The jurors, who were very alert, witnessed the imbalance. To many others watching the case, it seemed as though the defendants of the Holy Land Foundation case were getting an unfair trial.

As defendant Shukri Abu-Baker’s attorney, Nancy Hollander, continued cross examining FBI agent Lara Burns, Hollander reminded her of her testimony last week when Burns said, It would be a waste of money for a charity to send about 50 volunteers to Oklahoma just to donate blood. Hollander then made it clear that the HLF did not send the 50 volunteers to Oklahoma to donate blood. She showed that their blood donation was made in the Dallas office of BloodCare and in fact sent to the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing in April 1995. As for the nearly 50 individuals who traveled to Oklahoma, those went to volunteer with Feed the Children, an Oklahoma City-based relief organization that provided the victims and relief workers with food, medicine and other necessities. Hollander added that the HLF purchased most of the tickets for $58.

Hollander then discussed a translation inaccuracy caused by the government translator. In the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, some of the defendants met to discuss the 1993 Oslo accord. The translator expressed that during this meeting Abu-Baker said, We give the Islamists $100,000 and the others $5,000. Hollander then said it wasn’t until August 8, 2007 that government officials learned the translation was incorrect. In the correct translation, Abu-Baker says, We gave the Muslims $100,000 and the others $5,000.

The HLF donated $5,000 to the city of Oklahoma for the survivors of the bombing. Hollander said the government tried to make a link between the $5,000 check and what was said in the Philadelphia meeting about “giving the others $5,000.” She said the government also attempted to show that the HLF’s only help to the bombing victims was simply a $5,000 check. Hollander said she had proven otherwise. She said since the new translation revealed the past tense in Abu-Baker’s statement, it would be difficult to link his statement with the $5,000 the HLF gave to the bombing victims. She also made it clear that the HLF also wrote a $2,500 check to the Red Cross to benefit the bombing victims in addition to organizing a blood drive and paying for volunteers to pass out meals to those in need after the bombing in Oklahoma.

Josh Dratel, defendant Mohammad El-Mezain’s attorney, was the next in line to cross-examine Burns. He began by making clear that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has allowed the government to wiretap several thousand pages of summaries of El-Mezain’s phone calls made and faxes sent from 1994 to 2003. He also talked about the terabytes of information captured, the bank records obtained and the video and audio tapes seized. He said much of the government’s evidence — including videos, audio and other documents — took place a few years before the U.S. government designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

He then said El-Mezain traveled the country to raise money for the HLF and mosques nationwide. Dratel then played a video of El-Mezain briefly speaking at the grand opening of the HLF’s New Jersey office in the mid-1990s. Dratel then asked Burns if she was aware of El-Mezain’s television show. I don’t recall, Burns said, despite the fact that she reviewed documents that showed El-Mezain had a show.

Let’s pray that the defendants will get a fair trial.

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