The Case

Why is the Holy Land Foundation case believed to be purely political?

I. Pattern of Shutting Down Muslim Charities:

The Holy Land Foundation was among several charities that the Bush administration shut down soon after 9/11. These include: Benevolence International Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, Kind Hearts USA and Islamic American Relief Agency. In 2009, the ACLU released a report titled “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity,” addressing this issue. To read the report, click here.

II. Flawed Legislation:

The HLF case was authorized by the Patriot Act, which expanded a provision in the “material support” law to include those who provide “assistance.” This made it illegal to send charity to the U.S. Treasury Department lists of designated terrorists. (Note: The HLF was never found guilty of giving charity to a designated terrorist organization; rather, they were convicted of conspiring to give charity to zakat committees that prosecutors argued were fronts for Hamas).  What the “material support” statue has essentially done is undermine bona fide humanitarian efforts, and thus, cause an economic chokehold on Occupied Palestine. According to the ACLU, the law is “in desperate need of re-evaluation and reform.” The legislation also raises serious due process concerns and violates human rights obligations and constitutional provisions that protect freedoms of religion and association. The Center for Constitutional Rights has challenged the constitutionality of this law in the Supreme Court. To learn more about the law, click here.

III. Timing: Post 9/11 Hysteria:

The HLF was shut down amid the Bush administration’s so-called “War on Terror.” In December 2001—three months after 9/11—Bush met with then Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon. Almost immediately after the visit, Bush shut down the HLF through an executive order and the Treasury Department froze HLF’s assets without a hearing or statement of reasons, and by relying on secret evidence.

IV. Relentless Defamation:

The political persecution against the Holy Land Foundation began as early as 1993 and became more relentless throughout the 1990’s. Pro-Israeli researchers, politicians and lobbyists—such as notorious Islamaphobe Steven Emerson, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner,  former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Israeli advocacy group, the Anti-Defamation League—accused the HLF of supporting Hamas without providing proper evidence to backup their claims. Some urged the state and justice departments to investigate the HLF, some heightened congressional pressure by proposing legislations including the Material Support Law, while others asked the IRS to revoke HLF’s tax-exempt status. In response to the accusations, numerous news outlets linked the HLF to Hamas throughout the 1990’s, stories by The New York Times, Dallas Morning News, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, 60 Minutes and 20/20. Why was the HLF persecuted? It was gaining prominence as it continued to alleviate the economic devastation in Occupied Palestine and some saw its prominence as a threat so they sought to close it down.

Are there any civil and human rights abuses in this case?

In addition to the flawed nature of the Material Support Law, there are a plethora of civil and human rights abuses in the HLF case. In fact, David Cole, a Georgetown University professor of constitutional law, has compared the HLF case to prosecutions that took place during the McCarthy Era.

Months before the first HLF trial, prosecutors unsealed a list of 300 unindicted co-conspirators, including three major Muslim organizations: CAIR, an advocacy group; ISNA, an educational organization; and NAIT, a trust that holds deeds of American mosques. “By listing these groups… it says I don’t want you to have any advocacy, any education or to own anything,” a Dallas leader was quoted saying in the aforementioned 2009 ACLU report. The purpose of the list of un-indicted co-conspirators was to allow prosecutors to use their statements in court without it being considered hearsay. The individuals and groups on the list cannot challenge the designation.

“The government’s actions …violated the fundamental rights of American Muslim Charities and has chilled American Muslims’ charitable giving in accordance with their faith, seriously undermining American values of due process and commitment to First Amendment freedoms.”
— ACLU Report

During both HLF trials, prosecutors disregarded the first amendment and used tactics such as guilt by association and collective punishment. Most notably, the prosecutors denied the Holy Land Five’s constitutional right to confront the witness by direct examining their star witness—an Israeli intelligence officer who refused to release his identity, agreeing only to testify under a pseudonym. All in all, the HLF prosecution, which has been dubbed the “largest terror-funding” case in U.S. history, has hindered our freedom to give.

What were the charges in the indictment?

To read the indictment, released on July 27, 2004, click here. Please note:

  • Nothing in the indictment charges the defendants of providing money to Hamas, or providing money for arms, or engaging in violence.
  • Nowhere in the indictment does it allege that any of the funds the zakat committees received from the HLF were misuses or funneled to support violent acts.
  • None of the zakat committees that are mentioned in the indictment are listed in any designated terrorist list by any United States agency.
  • In fact, USAID—an American government agency—had continued providing funds to the same zakat committees listed in the indictment well beyond the time that Bush shut down the HLF.

Although the original indictment lists 197 counts, the defendants were only tried on 108 counts during the 2008 retrial. In September 2008, prosecutors asked the judge to drop 29 charges against defendant Mufid Abdulqader, 29 against Abdulrahman Odeh and 31 against Mohammad El-Mezain. These were charges that the three men were acquitted of in the 2007 trial.

Docket Number: 304-CR 240G, Northern District of Texas.

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  1. […] The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until three months after 9/11 when the Bush administration shut it down following a claim from that the group had donated a portion of their foundation funds to schools and hospitals in Gaza through a Zakat Committee that allegedly had connections to Hamas (designated by the US in 1995 as a terrorist group).  After subsequent raids on their homes and offices, arrests, and two trials (the first ending in a hung jury), the Holy Land Five was convicted of conspiracy under the Material Support to Terrorists statute and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in Federal Prison. […]