FBI agent testifies (Sept. 25, 2008)

Moments before the jury entered the courtroom on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008, prosecutor Jim Jacks announced he would no longer ask government witness and FBI linguist Atef Shafik about his opinionthat could have suggested that the defendants were Islamists.

In a quick cross-examination of Shafik , defense attorney Greg Westfall—who represents Abdulrahman Odeh—asked Shafik if any of the agents and prosecutors assigned to the HLF case speak Arabic? No, Shafik replied.

Defense attorney Marlo Caddadu—who represents Mufid Abdulqader—asked him if her client was present at the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, where a group of Arab-American intellectuals gathered to discuss worldly issues. Shafik’s answer: He was 80 percent sure Mr. Abdulqader was present. Caddadu went on to say that while listening in on numerous of her client’s phone conversations, one could conclude that Abdulqader is loud and anything but shy. Shafik agreed. Mrs. Caddadu made clear that if her client was present at the Philadelphia meeting, his voice would have definitely stood out and his name would have been somewhere on the meeting’s translated transcript.

After fast redirect and re-cross examinations of Shafik, the next witness was called to the stand.

Fifth Witness

FBI agent Lara Burns, who since last year had a baby and highlighted her hair, began her testimony by saying that the intelligence investigation of the HLF began in the 1990s. This gave the FBI the ability to wiretap phone lines and offices as well as access to financial documents. The criminal investigation, she said, did not begin until December 2001 when the HLF offices was shut down by the Bush administration. By the end of the criminal investigation, the FBI had collected about 500 boxes of documents and several thousands of audio and video files.

Burns then talked about each defendant’s responsibility at the HLF after which she connected defendants Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker and Mohammad El-Mezain to the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP).

Many jurors took their glasses off and rubbed their eyes as Burns talked about a Power Point presentation she created, which concluded the HLF was part of the Palestine Committee, which was part of the Muslim Brotherhood. She also pointed out that defendants Elashi, Abu-Baker and El-Mezain were included in the phone book of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook. The phone book was seized during Abu Marzook’s 1995 arrest at JFK Airport in New York City.

Prosecutor Barry Jonas played a couple of videos which many thought were meant to frighten the jury. One of the clips showed El-Mezain passionately speaking to an audience in the 1980s about the Zionist occupation, the 1987 Intifada, jihad, martyrdom and Palestinians’ right to return.
Other videos, which were clearly edited by the prosecutors, showed scenes of Palestinians throwing rocks, defendant Abdulqader singing traditional Palestinian songs, such as this one: Al Ardu Lana. Wil Qudsu Lana. Wallahu Biquatihi Ma’ana. (The land is ours. Jerusalem is ours. And God with his strength is with us) and this one: Lan Tamuru Fawqa Dami, Fawqa Dami. Lan Ta’eeshu Fee Baladi, Fee Baladi … Ya Atfal Al-Hijara, Yala Shinu Hal Ghara (You will not cross over my blood, over my blood. You will not live in my land, in my land … Oh children of the stones, common wage this raid.)

Another video that prosecutors play is of a 1980s Palestinian skit, where defendant Abdulqader approaches an old man and asks him for favor. The old man bends down and opens a bag filled with rocks from all over Palestine. This rock, my son, is from the town of Tulkarem where the best olive oil is from, so it sticks when you throw it. And this one is from Gaza, the home of the “shatta” or hot sauce, so it burns when you throw it.

For the next couple of hours, Burns attempted to discredit the defendants. Defendant Abu-Baker tells an Associated Press reporter that there was no HLF office in Jerusalem, while during a deposition, he says otherwise. In addition, HLF’s meeting minutes were in English and Arabic with varying content, she said. HLF officials later made the decision to get rid of all the Arabic documentation.

Burns will continue her testimony on Monday, Sept. 29, 2008.

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