[Ppnews] The Holy Land Foundation Case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 25 18:03:46 EDT 2010


June 25 - 27, 2010

The Holy Land Foundation Case

Defending My Father ... and the Constitution


The case perhaps most notably authorized by the Material Support Law, 
which was upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday, was that of the Holy 
Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in the United 
States. My father, Ghassan Elashi, co-founded this charity, and after 
two lengthy, expensive trials, he's now serving a 65-year prison sentence.

The panel was split 6-3, the valiant minority being Chief Justices 
Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth B. Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Writing the 
majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts concluded that the 
Material Support Law is not too vague and does not violate the First 
Amendment, opposing the extensive arguments of constitutional law 
expert David Cole who, along with the Center for Constitutional 
Rights, challenged the law in the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Breyer 
wrote the dissenting opinion, stating that the law could criminalize 
speech and association "only when the defendant knows or intends that 
those activities will assist the organization's unlawful terrorist actions."

The Patriot Act, which expanded a provision in the Material Support 
Law to include those who provide "assistance," essentially made it 
illegal to send charity to the U.S. Treasury Department lists of 
designated terrorists. The Holy Land Foundation, or HLF, was never 
found guilty of giving charity to a designated terrorist 
organization. Rather, they were convicted of conspiring to give 
material support in the form of humanitarian aid to Palestinian 
charities called "zakat committees" that prosecutors alleged were 
fronts for Hamas, which was designated in 1995.

A Texas jury deadlocked in the first trial in 2007, defending the 
defense's main argument: that USAID, Red Cross, the UN, CARE and many 
international NGOs sent money to the same zakat committees listed on 
the HLF indictment. But in the 2008 retrial, after essentially the 
same arguments, the jury returned all guilty verdicts. My father is 
currently being held in a Communications Management Unit in Marion, 
Illinois, a prison that's been called "Little Guantanamo" since 
two-thirds of the inmate population is of Middle Eastern descent.

The Supreme Court decision is not the most optimistic news regarding 
the HLF case, which is now under appeal. Nevertheless, defense 
attorneys assert they still have strong grounds for appeal, including 
the prosecution's evidentiary errors and anonymous expert from Israel 
who claimed he could smell Hamas and testified under a fictitious 
name, thereby preventing defense attorneys from effectively 
cross-examining him.

According to the ACLU, the Material Support Law is "in desperate need 
of re-evaluation and reform." The Supreme Court didn't see that need, 
but hopefully, Congress will see that the law is shredding our 
Constitution in the name of national security and undermining bona 
fide humanitarian efforts, thus, causing an economic chokehold on 
Occupied Palestine.

Noor Elashi is a writer based in New York City.

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