FBI agent testifies a 2nd day (Sept. 29, 2008)

Jurors leaned towards the screens in front of them to read Arabic translations much of Monday, Sept. 29, 2008 as the second week of the Holy Land Foundation retrial kicked off.

Burns began the day by discussing a 1991 report by defendant Shukri Abu-Baker, in which he talks about a trip to the occupied Palestinian territories. Burns then went over an un-authored 1990 report that discusses a trip to the occupied Palestinian territories where an unknown individual meets Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar. Burns tied the two reports together, saying that the unknown person is Mr. Abu-Baker.

Burns and prosecutor Barry Jonas continued connecting the Holy Land Foundation to the Islamic Association for Palestine. Discussing the financial history of the HLF, Burns said the HLF gave money to entities such as the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA, a Muslim Brotherhood organization) in 1988 and the Islamic Center of Gaza in 1989.

In addition, Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook gave $210,000 to the HLF in 1992. But in his 1992 tax return, Abu Marzook said he donated $25,000, Burns said.

[Note: These transactions were made years before Hamas was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization in 1995.]

Prosecutors played an edited wiretapped phone conversation where a reporter asked Mr. Abu-Baker about Abu Marzook’s $210,000 payment. Why would he go through a public organization if Abu Marzook wanted his money to reach Hamas, Mr. Abu-Baker said. The reporter then asked him why his name was listed in Abu Marzook’s phone book, which was seized during his 1995 arrest in a New York Airport. Mr. Abu-Baker said his name was among thousands of other names, and that Abu Marzook was a philanthropist who knew a lot of people.

Jonas then showed the jury a giant chart listing the phone calls between Abu Marzook and defendants Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker and Mohmmad El-Mezain. But Mr. Abu-Baker and El-Mezain both said in past depositions they had no personal relations with Abu Marzook, Burns said as an attempt to discredit them.

For the next three or four hours, Jonas and Burns spoke about the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, where a group of Arab-Americans including a couple of the defendants spoke about worldly matters. Prosecutors played a phone call in which Mr. Abu-Baker says he does not want to speak about politics at the Philadelphia meeting because the HLF was a charity—not a political organization. Burns tells the jury about the itinerary of the gathering. Jonas showed jurors numerous flight and hotel records along with FBI surveillance photos of attendees Mr. Abu-Baker and Mr. Elashi.

During last year’s HLF trial, prosecutors did not play FBI-captured audio of the meeting; they simply read aloud transcripts. Today, however, prosecutors let the jury listen to many moments during the meeting. In one recording, a man said the meeting was called by the Palestine Committee. During another moment, Mr. Abu-Baker tells the attendees to call Hamas “Sister Samah (Hamas spelt backwards).” Prosecutors claimed this was a code word and a way to cover up their support for Hamas. But Mr. Abu-Baker later said in a sworn statement that “Samah” was a “whimsical and ironic play on words.”

Jurors continued to hear the statements Mr. Abu-Baker’s gave during the bugged meeting, such as this one: “The derailment of the Oslo Accord” and “War is deception.” Mr. Abu-Baker was also recording saying, “We gave the Islamists $100,000 and we gave the others $5,000.” Burns concluded that the others represent individuals such as the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing to which the HLF gave food and blood donations.

Burns will likely end direct examination on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008.

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