FBI agent concludes an 11-day testimony (August 14, 2007)

With her pink blouse, dark pin-stripped suit and crow-colored hair, FBI agent Lara Burns seemed hostile as she neared the end of her 11-day testimony on Tuesday, August 14, 2007. Mounted on a pole behind her was the American flag. The stars and stripes. The symbol of freedom and protection. Yet to many, the Dallas courtroom lacked these values. And many said Burns’ bias was evident. U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish refused to admit into evidence several documents seized by the Israeli Defense Force. But the attentive jury watched and listened as the judge continued to sustain most of the prosecutors’ objections.

Josh Dratel, defendant Mohammad El-Mezain’s attorney, continued cross-examining Burns by discussing Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook, who was a green card holder in the U.S. Dratel said Abu Marzook was detained in the U.S. from July 1995 to May 1997. He also made it clear that El-Mezain is a distant relative of Abu Marzook, but the two individuals were never close. Dratel also noted that Abu Marzook’s brother was a member of the Palestinian political party of Fatah. Dratel then discussed the 1992 mass deportation, where the Israeli government captured over 400 Palestinians and dropped them in the middle of a desert in southern Lebanon. He made clear that many of the individuals captured were scholars and imams, or Islamic leaders. Many were pediatricians and nearly 30 had PhDs. And all were eventually allowed to return, Dratel said.

Then it was time for Ghassan Elashi’s lawyer, John Cline, to cross-examine Burns. He started by saying it’s the U.S. Department of Treasury that names Specially Designated Terrorists. He said the designations — including that of Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin and Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook — were available to the public. He also mentioned that even after groups or individuals are designated, people could deal with them financially if they obtain a license from the Treasury Department. He then listed out several organizations designated for dealing with Hamas, none of which included the Zakat Committees linked to the Holy Land Foundation. He then cleared up the nature of the transactions between the HLF and the Richardson-based computer company Infocom, which was run by defendant Elashi and his brothers. Through invoices, Cline showed that the HLF made the payments to obtain computer parts from Infocom.

Soon afterwards, Marlo Cadeddu, Mufid Abdulqader’s lawyer, began cross-examining Burns. Cadeddu said her client’s name was not in Musa Abu Marzook’s phone book that was seized by federal agents when they arrested him in 1995. He was not in a list showing the Muslim Brotherhood leadership. She added that he did not help create the HLF neither was he ever a member of the HLF board. She then said most of the videos that Abdulqader appeared in were made before Hamas was designated in 1995. Cadeddu made it clear that the videos depicting Hamas in the late 1980s and early 1990s were not linked to suicide bombings since the first successful Palestinian suicide bombing was in 1994. In addition, Cadeddu stated that Abdulqader was never an employee of the HLF. He was merely a volunteer with no office, no desk and no phone at the HLF. She concluded by briefly discussing Abdulqader’s biography.

Prosecutor Jim Jacks then began the re-direct examination of Burns. He started by mentioning the angry individual who wrote a letter to the HLF stating how he hopes his donations will be used for weapons to crush the enemy and attacking the West with nuclear weapons. Jacks asked Burns if the HLF accepted the donation. Yes and he was added to the donor’s list, Burns replied. He then read aloud a long press release by the Islamic Association for Palestine. The only way to liberate Palestine is through jihad and by detesting the occupation, Burns said, as she read the report. Jacks then played a tapped conversation between a Dallas Morning News reporter and defendant Shukri Abu-Baker. In the conversation, Abu-Baker said, We have never raised money for Hamas. The Intifada, or uprising, was a historical phenomenon, where Palestinians where the underdog who received the most casualties.

Abdulrahman Odeh’s lawyer, Greg Westfall, then briefly re-crossed Burns. He discussed a wiretapped phone conversation where defendant Odeh tells El-Mezain that HLF donations to Oklahoma City Bombing victims would be a good opportunity for the HLF to help Americans. Westfall made it clear that the conversation occurred a couple days after the bombing, a time where there was increased hostility towards Arabs and Muslims in America because many mistaking blamed them for the bombing.

Nancy Hollander, Abu-Baker’s attorney, and Josh Dratel, El-Mezain’s lawyer were the last lawyers up as defense attorneys neared the end of their re-cross examination of Burns.

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