FBI agent testifies a second time (Oct. 21, 2008)

The jury seemed focused and awake on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008 despite the prosecution’s daylong dry and dreary arguments. As the fifth week of the Holy Land Foundation retrial continued, government attorneys called back FBI agent Lara Burns as their next witness.

Prosecutor Barry Jonas displayed numerous FBI-created schedules showing that the HLF sent money to some of the zakat (charity) committees in Palestine. Jonas also displayed Thank You letters from some zakat committees to HLF employees. Jonas clarified that most of the committees continued to receive money from the HLF even after the U.S. government named Hamas a Specially Designated Terrorist in 1995 and a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997.

According to the schedules, the U.S. government traced a total of about $554,000 to the Jenin Zakat Committee from 1992 to 2001, $494,000 to the Ramallah Zakat Committee from 1991 to 2001, $1.7 million to the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron from 1991 to 2001, about $457,000 to the Nablus Zakat Committee from 1991 to 2001, $485,000 to the Islamic Science and Culture Committee from 1991 to 1996, about $379,000 to the Bethlehem Zakat Committee from 1991 to 2001, about $284,000 to the Qalqilia Zakat Committee from 1992 to 2001 and about $315,000 to the Tulkaram Zakat Committee from 1991 to 2001.

Prosecutors played a few video clips throughout the day, such as one that depicted Palestinian summer camps organized by a zakat committee. Another video showed interviews with some of the deportees who were arrested by the Israeli government in 1992 and dropped on a deserted mountaintop in southern Lebanon. In this video, the deportees identified themselves as members of Hamas and thanked defendants Shukri Abu-Baker and Mohammad El-Mezain for HLF’s aid during their deportation. The third video was another desperate attempt to frighten the jury. It showed random Palestinians wearing green Hamas headbands chanting, “God is Great, Death to America … God is Great, Death to Israel” while stomping on and burning the American and Israeli flags.

Jonas ended the day by playing a wiretapped phone call between defendants Shukri Abu-Baker and Ghassan Elashi, where they discussed how the designations could prevent charity from going to the Palestinian needy. The incomplete conversation featured statements like these: “This is injustice.” “It’s a political battle.” “No equality here.” “I don’t think Washington cares about the Palestinian people.”

Burns will likely conclude her second testimony on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008.

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