Last government witness testifies (August 27, 2007)

With her light gray suit and her pasty face, FBI agent Lara Burns was called to testify a second time on Monday, August 27, 2007 as the U.S. government’s final witness. The jurors stretched, yawned and stared at the clock as Burns continued to repeat her previous testimony and talk about issues of which she is not an expert. And as defense attorneys stood up to object on Burns’ reiteration and non-expertise, U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish overruled one objection after another.

Garrett began the day by discussing financial documents that FBI agents created. They were schedules that included the payments that the HLF sent to more than a dozen zakat committees in occupied Palestine and the dates of the transactions. The indictment only showed a representative sample of these payments, Burns said.

Prosecutors then displayed a July 1991 letter addressed to defendant Shukri Abu-Baker from a zakat committee employee. The document listed several zakat committees — such as Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and Islamic Charitable Society in Hebron — and stated if the majority of it is ours or all of it is ours. The government tried to prove that ours implied Islamists, which thereby meant Hamas.

Burns then read aloud a document showing Abu-Baker’s visit to Palestine. Her goal was to point out the several individuals Abu-Baker met that the government considers Hamas members. The agent then testified about a statement by an attendee at the Philadelphia Conference, where the defendants and several other individuals met to discuss the 1993 Olso agreement. The meeting attendee — not one of the HLF trial defendants — listed the overall institutions in the occupied Palestinian territories including educational, charitable, health, technical and media. Garrett and Burns showed the level of Islamist presence in each institution.

The Islamic Society of Gaza, whom the government claims to be a Hamas organization, received numerous payments from the HLF, Garrett said. He then played a video promoting the Islamic Society of Gaza and displayed a letter from the society thanking HLF officials for their work in Palestine. Garrett also displayed similar documents regarding the Islamic Relief Committee, the Jenin Zakat Committee and the Ramallah Zakat Committee — all of whom the government alleges are Hamas-affiliates.

Throughout the day, many observers — including some jurors — giggled at the bizarre list of terms that the government lawyers adopted for Hamas. Here are a few: steadfastness, resistance, ours, movement, Islamist and Samah.

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