New trial date set in Holy Land case

By JACK DOUGLAS JR./ Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Feb. 16, 2008

The federal government will retry five former leaders of a Richardson-based Islamic charity, beginning Aug. 18, on charges that they helped fund terrorism in the Middle East.

A government official, who asked not to be identified because of a judge’s gag order, said Friday that the prosecution will pursue the same charges against the leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development that were at issue in the first trial, which resulted in a hung jury and mistrial in Dallas in October.

The failure to win a conviction was seen as a major setback in the federal government’s efforts to win anti-terrorism cases in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. Before the trial, the government shut down Holy Land, which was once the largest Islamic charity in the world, and seized its assets.

The trial in downtown Dallas, the culmination of a 14-year federal investigation, took four months, cost millions of dollars and was the scene of protests nearly every day.

After the mistrial, the government said it would retry the case.

The defendants — Mohammed El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader, Ghassan Elashi, Abdulrahman Odeh and Shukri Abu Baker — are accused of running the financial and social services arm of Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization.

The defendants and their supporters said they were raising money to help Palestinian families and orphans.

“I believe they will be able to show they were raising money for people who were literally starving and for the orphans with no families in Palestine,” Fort Worth lawyer Tim Evans said before the first trial. Evans is the former defense attorney in the case for Abu Baker.

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