Four witnesses in one day (July 26, 2007)

Hamas author Matthew Levitt cleared his throat, took a small sip of water and continued his testimony on the morning of Thursday, July 26, 2007. During the cross examination, defendant Mohammad El-Mezain’s attorney Josh Dratel asked Levitt about the other terror finance cases where he was previously a witness. Levitt said he testified in about eight cases, including U.S.A v. Sami Al-Arian and U.S.A. v. Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar.

[In reality: Al-Arian, Salah and Ashqar were all acquitted by juries. Pray that the HLF defendants will also be acquitted by the jury.]

Marlo Caddedu, Mufeed Abdulqader’s lawyer, mentioned Baruch Goldstein’s massacre in 1994. She said that after he shot the praying Palestinians, he was hailed as a martyr. Thousands of Jews have visited his graveyard and some even hold fake guns and dress like Goldstein. Nancy Hollander, Skukri Abu-Baker’s lawyer, said Israelis bulldoze homes of Palestinians whom they suspect are linked to violence. She then asked Levitt: Is it not true that innocent families — including children — suffer for a family member’s misconduct? Levitt’s answer: The suffering would go toward whoever was living in the house. He would not admit that the families would suffer.

The testimonies of the government’s next two witnesses took less than two hours.

Atef Shafik, the second witness in the HLF case, was a language analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for over nine years. During that time, 90 percent of his work was for the HLF case. Through his testimony, the Egyptian native said he translated numerous Arabic items including documents, letters, phone calls, video of fundraisers and audio of speeches. In a brief effort to make Shafik look credible, government attorney Nathan Garrett asked Shafik what his goal has been during his course of work. To capture the meaning of the evidence — not the literal translation, Shafik said. Defense attorneys did not cross-examine Shafik.

The third witness in the case, Marcial Pereeo, testified about the tapes and other items that were coincidently found under the dirt in his backyard. Pereeo is the new homeowner of the house previously inhabited by Fawaz Mushtaha, a member of the Palestinian traditional band that defendant Mufeed Abdulqader is a part of. When he first found the tapes, he said he simply dumped them in a trash bag. He attempted to put the bag outside for trash pick-up, but Pereeo stopped when his neighbor told him his house was once raided and under surveillance. The FBI was later called to dig up the property and found more tapes. A while later, a landscaper found one lonely additional tape in Pereeo’s backyard.

Defense attorneys only had one question during cross-examination. Caddedu asked Pereeo if Mushtaha was one of the defendants in the HLF case.

[In reality: Mushtaha is not one of the defendants. Neither was he ever an employee of the HLF.]

Lara Burns — a major FBI agent in the HLF case since 2000 — was the fourth witness to take the stand. With her country accent and her coal-like hair, she talked about the locations where the HLF documents were found. One of the locations, she said, was Infocom Corporation, a computer and web-hosting company that was run by defendant Ghassan Elashi and his brothers. In InfoCom Corp — which was located across the street from the HLF — federal agents found 20 boxes of documents, video and audio. Burns then pointed out each defendant in the courtroom. Prosecutor Jim Jacks then displayed documents showing the creation of organizations including the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association of Palestine and the American Middle Eastern League for Palestine. For nearly an hour, Burns read aloud the dates that these groups were established and the names involved in each group. Burns also discussed more than 20 weekly reports that defendant Abdulrahman Odeh filed to the Dallas office of the HLF from HLF’s New Jersey office. At this point, the jury was stretching, leaning back and yawning.

During the next few hours, Burns attempted to create a credibility gap between defendant Mufeed Abdulqader and the jury. She said when she interviewed Abdulqader a few years ago, he told her he did not know anyone at the HLF except one employee until he moved to Texas in 1995. The prosecutor and Burns tried to prove Abdulqader wrong by displaying a few plane tickets that the HLF purchased a few years prior to 1995 for Abdulqader and his band to perform at HLF events. She said during her interview, Abdulqader also told her that he was a volunteer who only got paid for travel, not services. The prosecutor then displayed a few pay stubs showing payments made to Abdulqader. Burns, however, failed to explain why these payments were made. According to her interview, Abdulqader said he did not know the amounts of money he raised. The government lawyer tried to prove him wrong by presenting a tapped phone conversation that said otherwise. In a monotone voice, Jacks and Burns read aloud the discussion between Abdulqader and an HLF employee talking about the total money raised at a few events.

It seemed as though many in the courtroom did not understand the relevance of Burns’ testimony so far. And again, there was no evidence proving that the HLF supported HAMAS.

Government lawyers expect Burns’ direct examination to take another two days.

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