FBI agent concludes direct examination (August 7, 2007)

Prosecutor Jim Jacks stood behind the wooden podium in the center of the courtroom much of Tuesday, August 7, 2007 as he concluded the seven-day direct examination of FBI agent Lara Burns. As he leaned both arms on the podium, Jacks began sounding much like an aged ceiling fan in motion as he asked Burns about more than a dozen wiretapped phone calls. The jury scrolled their eyes down the screens as they read the translated transcripts of the conversations.

Jacks began by questioning Burns about a fax that the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) sent to defendant Mohammad El-Mezain. The fax described suicide bombings, which killed Israeli Zionist soldiers, as “heroic operations.”

U.S. government officials then played an intercepted conversation between defendants Shukri Abu-Baker and El-Mezain that occurred soon after the Clinton administration designated Hamas as a terrorist group in January 1995. They discussed an Associated Press article about the designation. Burns then read aloud the almost three-page article to the jury.

In another tapped conversation, defendants Abu-Baker and Ghassan Elashi discussed the U.S. government’s arrest of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook in 1995 at the JFK Airport in New York. I called his wife, Elashi said, referring to Abu Marzook’s wife, Nadia. He’s our friend, Elashi stated. Our discussion is being recorded, Abu Baker said.

Jacks played several other phone discussions between Elashi and Abu Baker, including one where they discussed a Dallas Morning News editorial. A Jewish guy, probably Steven Emerson, wrote it, Elashi said. He then continued, The editorial says cells of Hamas are operating in north Texas. Do you know who they’re referring to? This editorial should be severely criticized. We need to respond. They say Hamas practices terrorism because it kills innocent lives. What about the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers. Israel is the one practicing terrorism. And America — which supports Israel — practices terrorism. Abu Baker replied by saying, If the U.S. deports everyone who doesn’t like Israel, then who’s truly ruling America? That’s the question.

Government lawyers then played a video of a Palestinian festival in the United States. The clip showed people singing nashid, or Palestinian songs portraying the Palestinian oppression, while doing the dabka, a traditional Arab dance. The video also showed defendant Mufid Abdulqader saying, We send a special greeting to several individuals including Hamas founder Ahmad Yasin and Hamas leader Abu Marzook.

Jacks then asked Burns to read aloud a 2003 sworn statement by El-Mezain. In the statement, El-Mezain said he has met Abu Marzook and talked to him a few times. He also said he was a far relative of Abu Marzook. In addition, El-Mezain said the HLF never provided monetary support to Hamas.

Government officials played several tapped conversations between El-Mezain and other individuals, including a brief chat with defendant Abdulrahman Odeh. In the discussion, Odeh asked El-Mezain if he had heard about a Palestinian suicide bombing that occurred during that time.

Burns testified about the Israeli Intelligence’s, or Mossad’s, failed attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in 1997. The government then played a conversation between defendants Abu Baker and Abdulqader, who’s the half-brother of Mishal. Abu Baker asked Abdulqader about the health of his brother. Abdulqader then told Abu Baker about his brother’s assassination attempt: The Israeli assassins watched Mishal for a few days until they knew his schedule. Soon afterwards, they injected Mishal with a poison as he was walking down a street in Jordan. The killers then ran to a car that was waiting to pick them up. Mishal’s bodyguard followed the car until it stopped. When the assassins got out, pedestrians who heard what happened began throwing rocks at them. The Jordanian government arrested the attackers and demanded the antidote to treat Mishal, who was in a coma for a few days. The Jordanian government then announced Israeli’s attempt to kill Mishal.

Jacks then played another tapped conversation where Abdulqader and his other brother, Methqal, discussed the family situation after the attempted murder of Mishal.

Burns then read a statement by Abu Baker, where he stated that the HLF’s main objective was to alliviate the suffering of the Palestinians. He also said HLF was never a supporter of HAMAS.

They then displayed Abu Marzook’s phone book, which included names and numbers of several entities such as the IAP, Hamas officials and defendants Elashi and Abu Baker.

Toward the end of Burns’ direct examination, Jacks displayed a chart that attempted to link the HLF with Hamas officials Musa Abu Marzook and Ahmad Yassin. Jacks then asked Burns two questions to which she answered yes. During your investigation, did you find that Abu Marzook was identified as a Hamas leader in early 1993? During that same time, was it reported that the HLF was a funding mechanism of Hamas?

Maybe it was fatigue from standing for hours or maybe it was a lack of focus and preparation, but many were not impressed by Jacks’ performance.

Even after almost a decade of surveillance, the government never could prove that the HLF funded Hamas. Neither could they charge the HLF with committing violent acts. So, they accused the HLF of supporting committees that are somehow linked to Hamas. Many say that Burns’ one-week-long testimony did not even come close to proving that the HLF in any way supported Hamas.

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