Cross examination of former U.S. Consul General Edward Abington continued Wednesday at the terror-support trial of five Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) officials. Abington, who served at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, has testified that Palestinian charity committees supported by HLF benefited needy Palestinians and did not help HAMAS, as the prosecution claims.
Prosecutor Barry Jonas tried to challenge Abington's assertion Wednesday, identifying members of those charity groups, known as zakat committees, who had HAMAS affiliations. Tuesday, Abington referred to zakat committees as "organizations run by pious individuals."
If that's the case, Jonas asked, how would Abington explain materials glorifying HAMAS leaders and the group's violence that Israeli security forces found during raids in 2002? Those materials included posters of HAMAS leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Yehya Ayyash, the bomb maker known as "the Engineer," and the "father of martyrdom operations." Other images offered into evidence at the trial include videos and keychains.
Abington said he had seen the posters, too, while visiting the committees but denied their presence meant the group was linked to HAMAS. Under later questioning by defense attorney Nancy Hollander, Abington said having one or more HAMAS supporters at a zakat committee doesn't mean the committee is controlled by HAMAS.
Jonas showed a picture found in a zakat committee of a bus being burned by suicide bombers and asked Abington whether the picture meant anything to him. The picture "represents the daily life of Palestinians," Abington said. Does daily Palestinian life include suicide bombings? Jonas asked.
"Daily life includes Palestinians being shot by Israelis," Abington said.
Abington was asked what he knew about different zakat committees, such as one in Ramallah, where an associate was involved in planning a July 1997 suicide bombing at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market.
Abington also was asked about a 1991 letter found in the home of unindicted co-conspirator Ismail Elbarrasse, a former assistant to HAMAS deputy political leader Mousa Abu Marzook, that described the Qalqilya zakat committee as "ours and it is guaranteed." Abington said he didn't know anything about it.
As he did Tuesday, Abington questioned information from Israeli intelligence, saying the information was of "questionable reliability" and he would not believe the evidence the Israelis seized from the charities.
Abington denied all links between HLF and the Muslim Brotherhood. When asked whether HAMAS was the Palestinian chapter of the Brotherhood, Abington said that he saw HAMAS as a "descendent" of the Brotherhood but that it was no longer affiliated with it.
Jonas asked Abington about a 1995 letter by a HAMAS spokesman to Senator Orrin Hatch threatening "a wave of outrage against the United States" if the U.S. continued to detain Marzook, who was then being held for extradition on an Israeli murder warrant.
Abington was the consul general at the time. He said he advised the Clinton administration that sending Marzook to Israel would generate serious consequences. When asked to explain what that meant, Abington said deporting Marzook to Israel would provoke serious anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and Palestine.
Abington was asked what he knew of the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron, a recipient of HLF money. On Tuesday, he denied the charity was linked to HAMAS. When Jonas challenged that assertion, Abington said that "no one has all the information on their fingertips" and he made the statement from the information available to him at the time.
Abington said that he had no knowledge of HLF's links to HAMAS and described HLF as "a Palestinian American organization that provided relief to needy Palestinians."