A Security-Conscious Charity
October 14, 2008
DALLAS - The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development's (HLF) close ties to a Dallas area computer business were discussed extensively in the foundation's terror support trial Tuesday. Infocom was run by HLF director Ghassan Elashi and his brothers.
On December 17, 2002 Infocom and the Elashis were indicted for financial transactions with Libya, Syria and Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. Infocom received at least $250,000 from Marzook. Infocom was found guilty on all 10 counts and Elashi and his brothers were found guilty on additional charges related to Marzook as well as computer equipment charges. Ghassan Elashi, who is on trial now for being part of an alleged conspiracy to rout millions of dollars to Hamas, is serving an 80-month prison sentence for his Infocom conviction.
Defense attorneys objected to the use of evidence collected from Infocom, alleging that it amounted to double jeopardy, the principle that a defendant cannot be tried twice for the same crime using the same evidence. But evidence seized during FBI searches at Infocom was admitted despite those objections. Some of the evidence related to the procedures of Holy Land Foundation.
FBI Agent Robert Miranda testified that there was "a lot of foot traffic between Infocom and the Holy Land Foundation." Since Infocom's office was right across the street from HLF, this interaction was made convenient to the point that the FBI was aware that HLF had internet service across the street.
Inside the Infocom office, FBI agents found a document describing security procedures to be used by HLF employees. Among the subjects outlined in the document were:
• Safety of personal residences, work apartments, cars and possessions
• Hotel safety
• Document Safety
• Communication Safety
• Telephone Communications
• Communication via fax
• Communication via live (human) points
• Travel and Transportation safety
Federal prosecutor, James Jacks, had Miranda read out each header contained in the document to emphasize the level of security that HLF felt that it needed to implement to avoid detection. Further information addressed in the courtroom was under the header Communication via live (human points) which stated "Coordinating with the Maintenance Committee in putting in place a covert monitoring system." Basic security also included "not exposing parts of the work's administrative skeleton." Jacks argued that this information was deemed necessary by HLF in order to prevent anyone from discovering their relations with specially designated terrorists.
Earlier, Miranda discussed people from overseas utilized by HLF. Board meeting minutes from 1999 discussed telephone fundraising, Miranda said. At these meetings, HLF officials analyzed the difficulties they were having with a shortage of speakers. The shortage prevented the group from holding fundraising events in some major cities.
Investigators were able to connect many of the speakers who were used in the HLF fundraising calls to Hamas, however, by searching in the personal phone book of Hamas leader Marzook. Marzook was arrested by federal officials in 1995 and his belonging were seized. The phone book contained the names of other Hamas officials, Miranda said. Not only did the FBI have toll records that show the numbers called, but during the FBI's raid of the HLF offices in 2001, they found phone bills. Those bills showed calls that were made to a representative of Hamas based in Iran.
Miranda also discussed the family connections between some of the defendants and Hamas officials. Marzook's wife, for example, is Elashi's cousin. Defendant Mohamed El-Mezain is a cousin of Marzook's. Defendant Mufid Abdelqader is the half-brother of Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal. And former HLF Executive Director Shukri Abu Baker's brother was a Hamas leader in Sudan.
Miranda's testimony is expected to continue when court resumes Wednesday morning.