Prosecution Rests in Holy Land Case
August 31, 2007
DALLAS— After six weeks of testimony, prosecutors finishing presenting evidence Thursday in the terror-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) and five of its top officials. Jurors heard testimony from 10 expert witnesses, saw hundreds of exhibits including videos and documents taken from HLF and their associates and heard secretly recorded conversations involving various defendants.
The defense spent Wednesday and Thursday cross examining FBI Agent Lara Burns, the government's final witness. Defense attorney Nancy Hollander, who represents former HLF chief executive Shukri Abu Baker, repeatedly pointed to portions of exhibits Burns did not highlight in her testimony. For example, Burns had testified about HLF-funded zakat, or charity, committees earlier this week. Hollander pointed to a fax taken from her client's home which illustrated the relationship between HLF and The Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron. The government describes the Hebron group as "part of the Hamas social infrastructure." It also was featured in Faith, Hate and Charity," a 2006 documentary on Hamas-linked charities produced by the BBC program Panorama.
The fax described the celebratory opening in 1999 of a children's library that was a joint project of the HLF and the Islamic Charitable Society. Baker delivered a speech over the phone. Hollander asked Agent Burns to read a line from that fax. Burns: "Under the auspices of Chairman Arafat who was represented by Ahmad Saeid Al-Tamimi…" Hollander stopped Burns and asked ‘Who was Arafat?" Burns said that he was the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority at that time, and agreed with Hollander that the Tamimi who represented him was Palestinian Authority official. By establishing the PA's endorsement, Hollander seemed to be implying the charity wasn't connected to Hamas.
The overall defense theme is that HLF support went to needy Palestinians and not to support any violence. Prosecutors counter that any support for Hamas, charitable or otherwise, became illegal with a 1995 executive order and 1997 counterterror legislation passed by Congress.
The defense begins its presentation when the trial resumes Tuesday. One of the witnesses expected to testify before the 12 jurors and three alternates is former Dallas Congressman John Bryant, who served in the past as an attorney and as a lobbyist for the HLF.
An assessment of the evidence presented so far will be posted soon. Read the Dallas Morning News' wrap up here.