Agent testifies 4th day (August 1, 2007)

Repetition has been one of the United States government’s strongest tools, especially on Wednesday, August 1, 2007. As U.S. government lawyer Jim Jacks continued a third day of direct examination with FBI agent Lara Burns, the jurors struggled to stay awake. Some looked up at the ceiling or took brief naps, while others stared at their nails or rocked their chairs back and fourth. But like a pair of Energizer Bunnies, Jacks and Burns kept on going and going and going.

What documents did they go over? Mostly financial and phone records.

In the beginning of the day, Burns testified about transactions made between Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook and what the government said were the three sections of the Palestinian Committee: the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) and the Occupied Land Fund (OLF), which is the Holy Land Foundation’s predecessor.

Burns read aloud government-made charts that displayed the following:
-From 1988 to 1992, Abu Marzook and the OLF/HLF made several payments to each other in amounts of either $10,000 or $100,000.
-Throughout 1992, Abu Marzook also made several payments to UASR in amounts varying from $10,000 to $30,000.
-And from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, Abu Marzook sent several payments — from $500 to $100,000 — to the IAP.

The evidence indicated that during much of these payments, Abu Marzook was a student and unemployed, Burns said. At this point, many began asking themselves: Who’s on trial, Musa Abu Marzook or the HLF?

In addition, Burns discussed the transactions between numerous parties including Abu Marzook and defendant Shukri Abu Baker, the HLF and the IAP, Abu-Marzook and family-owned computer business Infocom and even the HLF and Infocom.

Burns then talked about phone bills that showed calls made to Abu Marzook from the HLF and defendants Abu Baker and Mohammad El-Mezain.

Jacks asked Burns to read aloud excerpts of letters sent to the HLF from donors. Some talked about supporting the jihad, or ongoing struggle, in Palestine. One particular donor stated in a letter that his donation is for weapons to crush the enemy and attacking the West with nuclear weapons. Jacks then displayed a reply letter from defendant Abu Baker thanking the donor for his continuing support.

The next letter caused defendant Ghassan Elashi to burst in tears of remorse for the children of Palestine. In the letter, a donor stated that the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) strongly recommended the sponsoring of orphans. He encouraged it so much that he said anyone who aids an orphan will be near the Prophet in Heaven. The donor then said he wanted to join the orphan sponsorship program and be near the Prophet in Paradise. It was an emotional moment for relatives and friends when Elashi began weeping at that beautiful reward and at the number of orphans that have gone hungry after the U.S. government shut down the HLF in 2001. Even some jurors seemed astonished to see Elashi’s sensitivity toward the needy.

After a quiet break, Burns began talking about payments that the HLF sent to Musa Abu Marzook and several other individuals who were never employed by the HLF. She also said the HLF sent money to organizations including the Islamic Center of Gaza and Islamic Relief.

Burns then read aloud sections from more phone records and letters.

Jacks concluded the day by playing a couple clips of a recorded interview with Hamas leader Khalid Mishal, who he made clear is the half-brother of defendant Mufid Abdulqader. In the clip, Mishal said this in Arabic: People in Palestine are in dire need of help. We have little money. Send as much as you can. There are organizations in America and elsewhere that support Hamas. The American ears are listening to us now. Donate to the organization of your preference and it will get to those who deserve it.

After the jury was dismissed for the day, U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish denied a motion for mistrial filed by the defense team early Wednesday.

When defense lawyers cross examine Burns in a few days, they will hopefully put everything in context showing the jury that the defendants are innocent, sincere men whose only crimes were feeding Palestinian orphans.

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