Defense attorneys continue cross-examining FBI agent (Oct. 6, 2008)

Clarity filled the icy courtroom air on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008 as defense attorneys continued to cross-examine FBI agent Lara Burns.

Marlo Caddedu—who represents defendant Mufid Abdulqader—continued cross-examining Burns by playing several short video clips that prosecutors previously showed to the jury. Caddedu asked Burns to count the band members who sang with her client; the numbers ranged from four to seven. By this, she meant to relay that her client wasn’t the only one on stage, but he was the only one on trial. (The reason: His half brother is Hamas leader Khalid Mishal.)

Caddedu also pointed out the documentary footage showing scenes from the 1987 Intifada, such as one short clip where an Israeli soldier beats a Palestinian man. She then clarified that all the videos featuring Abdulqader—except two—predate 1995, which is when the U.S. government designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The two videos created after 1995 include one 1996 video where Abdulqader read aloud a message that sent greetings to Hamas leaders and a 1996 video where he stands silent as another individual sings about Ahmad Yasin. In any case, it is not against the law in the U.S. to talk about Hamas. Rather, it is illegal to send material support to Hamas. Caddedu concludes that the HLF never paid Abdulqader to fundraise; they only covered his travel expenses. She showed financial documents and a couple tapped phone calls to prove this point.

Defense attorney Nancy Hollander—who represents Shukri Abu-Baker—resumed the cross-examination of Burns that was put on hold on Friday, Oct. 3, 2008. She first talked about the checks that the HLF received in the late 1980s from the joint account of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook and Palestinian-American Ismail Elbarasse (whose home was raided and items were seized to be used as government exhibits in the HLF case.) None of these checks were signed by Abu Marzook, Hollander clarified. And all of the checks were sent years before Hamas was designated.

Hollander added that the phone calls between Abu Marzook and defendant Abu-Baker also took place before Hamas’ designation, the latest call being in 1992. Hollander then talked about an issue of El-Felisteen, an Arabic magazine that was distributed in the U.S., where the HLF had advertisements placed near Hamas-related pieces. The advertisement told the reader that their donation can: Sponsor an orphan. Treat a widow. Equip a clinic and a house. Plant a tree. Wipe away a tear.

Hollander also clarified that the magazine was published at least five years before the designation of Hamas. In addition, Hollander said the HLF placed ads in various publications—not just El-Felisteen. The skewed nature of the prosecution was exposed when she pointed out that the government-translated issues of El-Felisteen did not include the photo of an injured Palestinian child and the picture of a Palestinian family near an armed Israeli soldier.

The government claimed that Abu-Baker wrote a report about his visit with Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar during his trip to Occupied Palestine in the early 1990s. The document was not authored, but prosecutors assumed that Abu-Baker wrote it since he was out of the country at about the same time. Hollander showed the jury documents that proved Abu-Baker was in Europe—not the Middle East—during this time.

Prosecutors and the FBI made yet another assumption. “Abu-Khalid” was mentioned in the unauthored report, so Burns concluded that was Mahmud Zahar. Hollander clarified that Abu Kalid could be a last name like Abu-Baker. Hollander then asked Burns if she researched whether Abu-Khalid is a Palestinian last name. No, Burns said.

Hollander addressed the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, where numerous Arab-American intellectuals including a couple defendants discussed worldly affairs. She showed the jury transcripts of wiretapped phone calls and captured audio of the 1993 meeting where Abu-Baker says the HLF is not political. She also made it clear that prosecutors played sections of the Philadelphia meeting out of order with missing segments, which can cause listeners to take some points out of context.

Hollander then told the jury about an essential issue that prosecutors did not cover: HLF’s worldwide charity work. She showed jurors a Thank You letter to the HLF for assisting the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Hollander also played a video showing HLF volunteers putting necessities in boxes for the victims of the bombing. She also talked about HLF helping victims of North Texas tornadoes and Iowa floods. She then showed the jury a Certificate of Proclamation by then-San Diego Mayor Susan Golding recognizing HLF’s extraordinary efforts. She showed other letters thanking the HLF for their relief work in Kosovo and Turkey. Hollander concluded by displaying photos of wheelchairs that HLF gave away.

Defense attorney Joshua Dratel—who represents Mohammad El-Mezain—was the last to cross-examine Burns. Dratel emphasized that his client received (not made) calls informing him about suicide bombings. He also pointed out that all the videos featuring his client were recorded long before the designation of Hamas. He also said the checks between El-Mezain and Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook were all from Abu Marzook to El-Mezain (not the other way around.) In addition, all the transactions took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, again, years before the designation of Hamas.

Dratel will finish cross-examining Burns Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. FBI agent Robert Miranda will likely be called to the stand by late Tuesday.

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