A Northern Virginia man's home landscaping chore became evidence Thursday in the terror-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials in Dallas. Marcial Peredo told jurors how he was leveling the yard at his new Falls Church home when he stumbled into a stash of videotapes buried in the ground.
Jurors were not told what was on those tapes, but Peredo testified that he bought the house from Fawaz Mushtaha, an unindicted co-conspirator in the case and the Washington, D.C. representative for the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), an organization with intimate links to HAMAS. (More on Mushtaha below)
The Holy Land Foundation and the five defendants are charged with providing material support to HAMAS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Jurors also were told that burned videotape cases, cellular telephones, money, and maps were later found in Peredo's backyard barbeque pit.
FBI Agent Lara Burns also testified Thursday, describing an interview she had with defendant Mufid Abdulqader on April 5, 2002. Abdulqader claimed that, before moving to Dallas in 1995, he didn't know anybody at HLF except his cousin, co-defendant Akram Mishal. But records seized from HLF offices contradicted Abdulqader's claim. Prosecutors offered into evidence a 1990 American Express bill in the name of defendant Shukri Abu Baker and the Occupied Land Fund. The bill included travel charges for Abdulqader, who performed in a musical troupe, known as Al Sakra, at fundraisers for HLF throughout the country. The same credit card bill listed identical itineraries for other members of the band.
The Occupied Land Fund was an earlier name for HLF.
Abdulqader also claimed that he was merely a volunteer for HLF and sometimes served as a fundraiser, but that he was never compensated anything more than for travel expenses. Again, documentation from HLF offices seemed to contradict him. Prosecutors presented checks written from HLF to Mufid Abdulqader for "services." To emphasize the distinction, the government also included checks made out to Abdulqader for "travel."
The testimony of Agent Burns is expected to last for the next several days. The trial resumes on Monday.
Who is Fawaz Mushtaha?
In addition to his IAP work, Mushtaha was also the president of Light Star Travel Agency in Virginia and contact for The Dar El-Eiman Tour Group which share an address and phone number. Dar El-Eiman identifies itself as a Hajj agency--planning trips to Saudi Arabia. According to their 2002 brochure:
Dar El-Eiman announces that the following well-respected imams and scholars will be accompanying this year's Hajj Trip.
Among the 4 scholars listed:
**Muhammad al-Hanooti: A former IAP president who gave a speech in 1998 in his capacity as an imam stating:
At the moment, Dar al-Hijra [the name of the mosque he is addressing] is the greatest example in sacrifice, execution and in carrying out the Jihad that Allah calls for. Allah will give us the victory over our tyrannical enemies in our country. Allah, the infidel Americans and British are fighting against you. Allah, the curse of the infidel Americans and British are fighting against you. Allah, the curse of Allah will become true on the infidel Jews and on the tyrannical Americans.
**Anwar Aulaqi: Spiritual advisor to two of the 9-11 hijackers (Nawaf Al Hazmi and Khalid Al Mihdhar) both in San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia.
**Dr. Salah Sultan: Whose "vision", according to his online resume, is: "To live happily. To die as a martyr." On May 17, 2006, on al-Risala TV, Dr. Sultan praised Yemenite sheikh Dr. Al-Zindani, who has been categorized by the U.S. government as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" for "his support to bin Laden and al-Qaeda."