Some charges against Holy Land Fdn dropped
- Some charges tossed in bogus case against Muslim charity
By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Sep 2, 2008
DALLAS - Prosecutors have dropped most charges against two men
accused of helping a Muslim charity finance terrorism, an apparent
sign that the government will focus its case on two other men who
were leaders of the group.
Leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development,
based in Richardson, Texas, are accused of funneling millions of
dollars to the Middle Eastern group Hamas, which the U.S. government
considers a terrorist organization.
A trial last year resulted in no convictions and a mistrial on most
charges, leading prosecutors to narrow their aim for the second
trial, scheduled to begin Sept. 15.
In a motion filed last week in federal court in Dallas, prosecutors
requested the dismissal of nearly 30 counts against Mufid Abdulqader
and Abdulrahman Odeh. The men each will still face three conspiracy
counts that could send them to prison, if convicted, for 55 years.
Jurors in the first trial found Abdulqader and Odeh not guilty on
many of the non-conspiracy charges, but the judge declared a
mistrial. That meant prosecutors could have tried them again on
Former U.S. Attorney Matt Orwig praised the decision as "a better,
smarter way to try this case."
Prosecutors have narrowed their case to focus on the two men they
portrayed as most active in running Holy Land: Shukri Abu Baker, the
group's chief executive, and Ghassan Elashi, the chairman.
They will face the same charges they faced in the 2007 trial:
conspiracy, supporting a foreign terrorist organization, money
laundering and filing false tax returns.
Another defendant, former Holy Land chairman Mohammed El-Mezain,
will be retried on one conspiracy count. Jurors in the first trial
acquitted him on all other charges, and prosecutors are not
permitted to retry him on those counts.
Last year, jurors heard two months of testimony and deliberated for
19 days before deciding against convicting any of the five former
Holy Land leaders or the charity itself, which federal agents shut
down in 2001.
The U.S. government designated Hamas a terrorist organization in
1995, making it illegal to finance or raise support for the group,
which seeks the destruction of Israel and carries out suicide
Defense lawyers countered that Holy Land merely provided
humanitarian aid to schools and hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank.
Associated Press writer David Koenig contributed to this report.
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