FBI agent concludes testimony, second FBI agent takes the stand (Oct. 7, 2008)

The jury seemed wide awake as they leaned forward and took plenty of notes on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008 during the third week of the Holy Land Foundation retrial.

Defense attorney Joshua Dratel—who represents Mohmmad El-Mezain—continued c=his cross-examination of FBI agent Lara Burns by showing records of more than two dozen wiretapped phone calls from Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook to El-Mezain. The calls, which were made during the late 1980s and early 1990s, all lasted between one and two minutes. Dratel then asked, You don’t know who made the calls and who answered the phone, correct? After a quick mumble, Burns replied, Yes, that’s correct.

Dratel showed several news reports about the Palestinian struggle. One report quoted late Columbia University professor Edward Said saying the solution to the problem in Palestine would be to remove the Israeli military occupation from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and do away with the Zionist Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“Was Edward Said an extremist?” Dratel asked.

“I would say he’s unbiased,” Burns said with a small grin.

Jurors then saw several HLF family sponsorship forms. Dratel concluded by saying that the Palestinian families were in desperate need for monthly donations due to reasons such as unemployment, injuries and demolition of their homes.

Government lawyer Barry Jonas began attacking the HLF in his redirect examination. He started by addressing defense attorney Linda Moreno’s comment about the majority of the prosecution’s documents coming from Israel.

“Why is that?” Jonas asked.

“Because that’s where Hamas operates,” Burns replied.

Jonas said defendant Mufid Abdulqader was different from his band members because he helped raise funds for the HLF. He continued to do so even after Hamas was designated, Jonas proclaimed. Burns then discussed the Palestinian flag shown in several of the videos played during the past couple of weeks, including some flags that had Arabic writing on the center. The writing, Burns said, is a “saying often used by Hamas and Islamisits.”

Burns told the jury it doesn’t matter if some transactions between the HLF and Palestinian charities predated Hamas. You have to go back to before they began concealing their activities to know their true intent, Burns said. She then read aloud a document saying the wheelchairs mentioned during re-cross examination were donated to, not purchased by, the HLF.

Jonas repeated his direct examination as he talked about defendant Shukri Abu-Baker’s comments during the Philadelphia meeting, where a couple defendants and numerous Arab-American intellectuals gathered to discuss worldly affairs. In the meeting Abu-Baker asked the attendees to substitute Hamas with the term “Sister Hamas.” And he said, “War is deception.” Burns added that the attendees wanted to “derail” the Oslo Accord, which was signed in 1993 by late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

As for the nearly 30 calls between Hamas leader Abu Marzook and defendant El-Mezain mentioned during cross-examination, those were among 50-something calls, Jonas said. The prosecution attempted to belittle the defendant’s tireless relief work by saying that the thank you letters were given by people who did not know that some HLF officials were members of the Palestinian Committee. Jonas concluded with yet another repetitive remark: The HLF continued to pay the zakat committees in the Palestinian territories even after Hamas was designated.

Defense attorney Linda Moreno—who represents Ghassan Elashi—was the first to re-cross examine Burns. Moreno mainly addressed Jonas’ comment about HLF receiving rather than buying the wheelchairs. She made it clear that it’s common for charities to receive donations of items. This kind of non-monetary giving is in fact called Giving in kind, she said. And the HLF received many donations this way, including medicine, clothing and backpacks.

In her re-cross examination of Burns, defense attorney Marlo Caddedu made two points clear. First, she translated the Arabic writing on the Palestinian flag’s center: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the Prophet of Allah.” To prove that the saying is not representative of Hamas, Caddedu told the jury the statement is the first pillar of Islam. Second, Caddedu clarified that there were some band members other than Abdulqader who helped raise money for the HLF.

Defense attorney Nancy Hollander—who represents Shukri Abu-Baker—said the FBI tapped her client’s phone line. (During redirect examination, Burns forgot if this was true.) She also said that order matters when reading transcripts of the Philadelphia meeting. After a quick re-cross examination by defense attorney Joshua Dratel and no questions from defense attorney Greg Westfall, prosecutors passed the witness.

Sixth Witness

FBI agent Robert Miranda was the next government witness to take the stand. Prosecutor Jim Jacks started by establishing that Miranda received his undergraduate degree from a U.S. Air Force academy and his graduate degree from a U.S. Naval Academy. Miranda then told the jury about one of HLF’s fundraising methods: To organize conference calls where individuals give passionate speeches and ask for donations. When asked to describe the speeches, Miranda said, They were usually against the Oslo Accord. They demonized the Jews as enemies and worse. They were political in tone. Jihad and martyrdom were common themes. And they made references to Hamas figures in heroic ways.

Jacks showed the jury a long list of HLF’s speakers (who spoke years before Hamas was designated.) A couple of the speakers on the list were Hamas leaders, Miranda said. For the next 30 minutes or so, Jacks went through what Miranda repeatedly called “the terrorist Musa Abu Marzook’s phone book.” Miranda added that several speakers on HLF’s list were also on Abu-Marzook’s phone book.

Prosecutors then played a video showing one of the speakers on HLF’s list. The short segment shown to the jury was of the speaker saying: One day, Jesus will return to Earth and help give the Palestinians their land back. At this point, the Jews will hide behind the stone and tree after which the stone and tree will say, ‘Oh Servant of Allah, Oh Muslim. There’s a Jew behind me. Come kill him.’ This statement is also in the Hamas charter, Miranda said.

In addition, he found names of HLF speakers from a pamphlet found at the HLF and a handwritten note found at the house of Ismail Elbarasse (whose home was raided and items were seized to be used as government exhibits in the HLF case. Jacks spent the last hour of the day showing the jury airline receipts from HLF’s credit card records. The HLF paid these individuals, including some Hamas members, to travel so they can speak and raise funds for the charity.

Miranda will continue his direct examination on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008. The court will not be in session from Thursday, Oct. 9 to Monday, Oct. 13.

Comments are closed.