Secret witness begins cross-examination (Oct. 30, 2008)

Prosecutor Elisabeth Shapiro continued direct examination of Avi on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 by further inquiring about the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron. Avi talked about other charity leaders whom he considered Hamas figures. In addition, prosecutors played a video seized from the Young Muslim Society in Hebron. The tape depicted Palestinian children in black clothing holding fake shoulder missiles and marching on a stage during a kindergarten ceremony. Toward the end of the video, the children chant, “We will continue with resistance and jihad to liberate Palestine,” after which the kids take turns to announce suicide bombers and the amount of Israeli deaths caused by each operation. Avi then exclaimed, From 1995 to 2001, the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron was definitely part of the Hamas social network. It was the biggest Hamas committee in the West Bank.

Shapiro ended her discussion about the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron by showing the jury posters of suicide bombers that Israeli soldiers seized from there. She also displayed a dozen or so photos from the temporary Internet files that FBI seized from the HLF Dallas office. Shapiro concluded by listing out all the zakat (charity) committees on the HLF indictment. All of them were Hamas committees, Avi said. From 1995 to 2001, Avi said the following charities were known Hamas entities: Jenin Zakat Committee, Nablus Zakat Committee, Qalqilia Zakat Committee, Ramallah Zakat Committee and the Islaimc Charitable Society of Hebron. The Islamic Science and Culture Committee was a Hamas entity from 1996 to 2001, Avi said. And the Bethlehem Orphan Care Society was considered a Hamas institution from 1997 to 2001, according to Avi. Shapiro finally passed the witness.

Joshua Dratel—who represents defendant Mohammad El-Mezain—began cross-examining Avi by discrediting and exposing him. He reminded the jury that Avi’s real name is unknown to the defense team and most other people for that matter. There’s no way to do research on you, Dratel said. You could be an Israeli intelligence officer and we wouldn’t know that. In fact, Avi’s testimony was an order from the Israeli government. Dratel continued, You have a lawyer here to consult with. You’ve never written books about the subject of zakat committees. You’ve never been on a panel outside the Israeli government.

During direct examination, Avi said his opinion about the zakat committees is based on practical solution. OK. You’ve never been to a zakat committee. You’ve never spoken to people who received donations from zakat committees, Josh said, paused briefly, then continued. Your research includes going on the Internet, reading newspapers and reviewing documents seized during Operation Defensive Shield. And you were not even involved in the seizure during Operation Defensive Shield. Dratel explained that Avi is not an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, and he never conducted a poll of Palestinians asking them about zakat committees. As for the materials seized from the zakat committees, Avi doesn’t know where exactly there were found. They could have been in a closet, on a desk, on a wall or in a drawer, Dratel said. And most of the items from the Palestinian committees were seized after the HLF closed in 2001. Dratel then asked about the amount of Palestinian high school graduates who became Hamas. I don’t know, Avi replied.

Avi kept referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as “The Territories.” Dratel then asked, That’s short for Occupied Territories, right? Avi’s answer: I don’t agree with you. One time during his testimony, Avi referred to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria. The term is Biblical, referring to a time when Israel controlled the entire area, Dratel said then asked, The name has never been recognized by the United Nations to be valid, right? Avi’s response was yet again, “I don’t know.”

Israel has killed Hamas leaders. Was the ISA (Israeli Security Agency) involved in that? Dratel asked after which Avi’s room quickly scanned the room. Are you looking at your attorney for an answer? “Objection,” Shapiro said, as she jumped up. “Sustained,” U.S. District Jorge Solis ruled. Dratel ended by informing the jury about another essential truth: Zakat committees in Palestine also receive donations from numerous prominent charities such as the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Greg Westfall—who represents defendant Abdulrahman Odeh—was briefly cross-examined Avi. He said that many orphan applications were seized from the zakat committees during Operation Defensive Shield in spring of 2002. Avi proved prosecutors wrong when he said that the Yahya Ayyash in an HLF orphan form was not Yahya Ayyash’s son. In addition, Westfall clarified that the photos of Hamas leaders did not simply come from HLF computers—they came from temporary Internet files.

Defense lawyer Nancy Hollander—who represents Shukri Abu-Baker—was next to cross-examine Avi. Hollander started by asking Avi about his thoughts on Hamas leader Jamil Hamami. My opinion is that he never left Hamas, Avi said. Hollander then clarified that Jamil Hamami came to the U.S. in 1999 as a guest of the U.S. government. As for the post cards and other items depicting Hamas leaders and suicide bombers, one can find these materials in shops all over the West Bank? Hollander asked. Avi’s response, You’re exaggerating. He later admit he hasn’t been to the West Bank in 10 years.

Hollander made another good point: USAID (United States Agency for International Development) gave money to Al-Razi Hospial—the same money to which the HLF gave money. Hollander added that UNRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) runs schools in the West Bank and Gaza until today, and any child can go to these schools even if their fathers are accused of being Hamas activists.

After a quick cross-examination by Marlo Caddedu, defense lawyer Linda Moreno started cross-examining Avi. Moreno then addressed the video seized at the Jenin Zakat Committee that prosecutors played during direct examination depicting a skit where a young Palestinian girl with a suicide belt “kills” two Palestinian girls dressed like Jewish settlers. Government attorneys refused to play a segment where a girl reads a spine-tingling poem. Moreno read aloud the poem for the jury:

You do not know me O soldier.
You are afraid of my childhood.
Afraid of my small fingers,
and of my dreams.
You can grasp the collar of my shirt,
but you will not be able to grasp my heart.
You are afraid of my notebook,
and my toy, and my books.
You are afraid of my notebook,
and my toy, and my books.
You scream in fear of my innocence,
and hide in the rusty helmet,
and ask for help while in hiding.
I am looking you in the eyes,
what right do you have for me
to give you my homeland?
What right do you have for me
to give you my homeland?
What right do you have for me
to give you my homeland?

After a grueling six weeks, the government will finally rest their case Friday, Oct. 31, 2008.

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