The United States Supreme Court has decided not to accept appeals from the five Holy Land Foundation officials convicted of illegally funneling more than $12 million to Hamas, essentially concluding the case.
The court had no comment in declining to hear the case Monday.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected similar arguments last year in upholding the convictions against Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh. They were convicted on a total of 108 counts in 2008 and are serving sentences ranging from 15 years to 65 years in prison.
The defendants wanted the Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling by rejecting the prosecution's use of Israeli security officials whose identities were never disclosed. That, defense attorneys argued, hampered their ability to cross-examine the witnesses and violated the defendants' rights to confront their accusers.
But other testimony and evidence was consistent with the Israelis' testimony, the Fifth Circuit found. And there is precedent – especially in drug prosecutions – for courts balancing witness safety against the defendants' confrontation rights. "[T]here was a serious and clear need to protect the true identities of [the Israeli witnesses] because of concerns for their safety," the Fifth Circuit ruling said.
In addition, prosecutors did provide sufficient information for defense attorneys to cross examine aggressively. The "defense was therefore well-armed with information upon which to confront and cross-examine both," the appellate court found.
The defense and its supporters continue to cast the Holy Land Foundation as a victim of overzealous post-9/11 prosecutions. The group merely raised money for needy Palestinians, they argue, and was never connected to any violence.
But evidence and testimony in the trial showed the HLF sent money to Palestinian charities controlled by Hamas. "The purpose of creating the Holy Land Foundation was as a fundraising arm for Hamas," U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis said at the 2009 sentencing hearing.
HLF had been one of the nation's largest Muslim charities before being shut down in 2001.
Other disclosures in the case tied several prominent American Islamist groups – especially the Council on American-Islamic Relations – to a Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States created to provide Hamas with political and financial support.