Last witness continues testimony (August 28, 2007)

One juror had a runny nose while another constantly doze off. As the sixth week of the Holy Land Foundation trial continued on Tuesday, August 28, 2007, the jury seemed weary. But they also seemed hopeful because they were told that the government could rest their case before the end of August.

The government commenced the day by continuing the direct examination of FBI agent Lara Burns. Prosecutor Nathan Garrett played a couple videos portraying some zakat committees in occupied Palestine. One showed a zakat committee employee giving a speech. Another showed a child speaking about his father, who was killed by Israeli soldiers. Garrett then played a couple wiretapped phone calls where individuals who are not defendants of the HLF trial discussed the arrest of Akram Kharoubi, a former member of the Islamic Association for Palestine. What makes Kharoubi significant to the prosecutors? He’s a Hamas member, according to previous government witnesses Matthew Levitt and Avi (an anonymous Israeli agent.)

For the next few hours, Garrett displayed FBI-created schedules showing that the HLF sent money to some zakat committees in Palestine. Garrett made it clear that most of these 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 $1.7 million from the HLF to the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron, about $457,000 to the Nablus Zakat Committee, about $315,000 to the Tulkaram Zakat Committee, about $284,000 to the Qalqilia Zakat Committee, about $379,000 to the Bethlehem Zakat Committee and about $455,000 to the Islamic Science and Culture Committee. Garrett also displayed thank you letters from some zakat committees to HLF employees. In addition, Burns testified that several officers and board members of the zakat committees are Hamas affiliates.

Burns then read aloud a phone call transcript between an HLF employee and a donor. During the tapped call, the donor asked, Do you except donations for families going on jihad? The HLF officer replied, No. We give money to the suffering people of Palestine through several programs.

The government’s next major point was that defendant Abdulrahman Odeh sent money to the son of Hamas leader Yahya Ayyash, who was nicknamed “the engineer” after masterminding the suicide bomb. Garrett then played a tapped call where defendants Odeh and Mohammad El-Mezain discussed the 1996 Israeli assassination of Ayyash. May God have mercy on him, Odeh and El-Mezain said.

Garrett then displayed more than a dozen documents showing HLF money going towards families of shaheeds, or martyrs. He also played videos showing families of martyrs who were sponsored by the HLF. In one video, a woman with the strength of a cancer survivor talked about her young son’s death by Israeli soldiers and made a request: Send us weapons so we can fight the occupation. Garrett concluded the direct examination of Burns by showing the jury a chart that links the HLF with numerous Hamas entities.

Odeh’s attorney, Greg Westfall, made it clear that Odeh’s payments to Ayyash’s son were through an orphan sponsorship program. By displaying more than a dozen documents, Westfall proved that the HLF sent the children of martyrs the same amount of money as the rest of the children. He also displayed records that showed that HLF money went to the deserving hands in Palestine — the hungry and orphans. This was against the government’s argument, which stated that after the HLF sent money to zakat committees, the payments were given to money changers in occupied Palestine, eventually supporting terrorism. The government made it seem like the payments were almost impossible to trace. So Westfall displayed detailed documents showing HLF’s expenditures that proved otherwise. Westfall concluded the day by asking Burns if the FBI translated the HLF’s list of beneficiaries. Burns’ response: No.

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