The usual tranquility of the overflow courtroom in the Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse in Dallas was disturbed Wednesday, as supporters of the defendants in the government's case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) were forced to leave the main courtroom of Judge A. Joe Fish, as the prosecution called an expert witness from Israel. The man, testifying under the pseudonym "Avi," is an attorney for the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and is an expert in the global HAMAS social structure.
Many of the observers vocally objected to his appearance as an expert, asking each other what qualifications he really has. "Avi" was certified by Judge Fish on Monday as an expert witness because of his years of experience investigating the subject for the Israeli government. In his testimony this morning, "Avi" did not rely on any classified information, rather he focused on evidence that he gathered through HAMAS and HAMAS related websites, websites of the various charitable committees linked to HAMAS in the West Bank and Gaza, Arab language newspapers and television, and HAMAS videos.
"Avi" underwent direct examination throughout the morning, describing the global network of HAMAS linked charities which were created by the terrorist group's leaders in the West Bank and Gaza in the early 1990's. He testified that these organizations did not just appear out of the blue but that this network was organized and created by design.
According to "Avi," these funds shared common characteristics regardless of the country in which they operated, be it in the United States, England, Germany, or any one of a number of others which housed HAMAS charities. These characteristics included: registration as non-profit organizations, local HAMAS activists and leaders as top officials in the various entities, the use of newspapers to publish HAMAS pamphlets and messages, support for the same organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and finally all of these charities supported specialized segments of the population, notably the families of HAMAS martyrs and prisoners.
This HAMAS social network gradually spread throughout Europe. In a letter recovered from the offices of HLF and written to Akram Mishaal, a defendant in the HLF case who served as HLF's Programs and Grants Director, Amin Abou Ibrahim, a HAMAS leader and head of the Dutch Branch of the German based Al-Aqsa Foundation, listed for Mishaal the "addresses of the charitable organizations working for Palestine in Europe." The letter, dated April 2, 2001, indicated that Mishaal requested this list which included Al Aqsa Foundation offices in Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, and Holland. Al Aqsa and all of its branch offices were designated as terrorist entities by OFAC on May 29, 2003.
The list also included Interpal in Britain, the Charitable Organization for the Support of Palestine (CBSP) in France, the Association for Palestine in Austria, and the Relief Organization for Palestine in Switzerland, all of which were designated as terrorist entities by OFAC on August 21, 2003.
In its announcement concerning those designations, the Department of Treasury proclaimed that, "Today's action follows several actions taken against Hamas previously, including the designation of several entities that formed part of the Hamas network such as Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Al Aqsa Foundation, key sources of financial support for Hamas."
The testimony of "Avi" is expected to continue through Thursday.