The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which was once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., has been found guilty of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The group and five of its former leaders have been found guilty of 108 charges of terrorism financing.
According to the Associated Press, it took the government 15 years and two trials to finally bring down the Holy Land Foundation. The guilty verdict was rendered yesterday in Dallas, Texas. The Texas headquarters of the former foundation was based in nearby Richardson, Texas.
Last year the judge declared a mistrial when jurors were deadlocked over most of the counts after 19 days of deliberations.
Following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said:
"United States citizens have spoken in this case, and said with a resounding verdict of guilty that we will not tolerate those who choose to finance terrorism."
Since the 1990’s the Holy Land Foundation has been suspected of funneling money to Hamas by “bankrolling social programs run by Hamas.” AP reports that the foundation was accused of sending more than $12 million to Hamas, which was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization in 1995.
The convicted leaders face lengthy prison sentences, and “some could be locked away for life.”
The convictions range from supporting a terrorist organization to money laundering, which carry sentences up to 15 or 20 years on each count. . . Holy Land itself was convicted of all 32 counts. It will also be required to forfeit about $12.4 million to the government.
The Holy Land defense attorneys say that they will appeal the verdict, and their supporters accuse the government of “politicizing the case as part of its war on terrorism.”
The Dallas Morning News reports that Muhammad Salah, a Palestinian-born Illinois businessman told Israeli agents in 1993 that “Holy Land was the chief fundraising arm of the then-6-year-old Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas — which sponsored suicide bombings targeting Israelis in protest of their occupation of Palestine.”
Investigators also learned that Mousa Abu Marzook, who was at the time the head of Hamas, helped to start the Holy Land Foundation with “hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed money”.
He also was married to a cousin of Ghassan Elashi, Holy Land’s board chairman and one of its founders.
The Dallas Morning News investigated the Holy Land Foundation over a period of time and was the target of organized protests.
Muslim groups were outraged and denied the links. They organized protests at the newspaper’s downtown Dallas offices. Meanwhile, investigators were learning that Holy Land was flying in militant clerics, many with Hamas ties, to headline U.S. fundraisers. Those gatherings often featured calls for violent jihad, or holy war, against Israelis.
The Dallas Morning News also reported that in 1997 InfoCom, a Richardson-based Internet service provider with financial ties to Marzook and conveniently located right across the street from the Holy Land Foundation, tried to set up an Iraqi domain name. InfoCom was also doing business with Syria and Libya in violation of U.S. export laws. A federal terrorism task force finally shut the company down in on September 5, 2001 - six days before 9/11.