Officials at the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) have long maintained that they have no relationship with Hamas, a specially designated terrorist group.
But HLF's own list of speakers from abroad, seized by federal agents in 2001, is a veritable roster of Hamas leaders and activists. In a Dallas courtroom Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Robert Miranda told jurors in HLF's terror support trial how he used telephone records and other information to cement more than three dozen HLF "overseas speakers" to Hamas.
"This is an organization that's all about money," Miranda said of HLF. "Who's raising it for them?"
HLF and five of its officials are on trial for allegedly providing material support to Hamas. The defendants say they merely were helping the poor and needy.
HLF Executive Director Shukri Abu Baker has denied any Hamas link for more than a decade. He told Dallas Morning News reporter Gayle Reaves:
"We never associated with…Hamas to start with, to distance ourselves later on. We never associated with Hamas anyway." The call, on April Fool's Day 1996, was intercepted by FBI agents pursuant to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant.
Baker repeated his denial six years later in a sworn declaration submitted for a court case challenging the U.S. government's December 2001 freeze of HLF assets.
"I reject and abhor Hamas, its goals and its methods," Baker's April 2002 declaration states. "I reject terrorism by anyone. I do not believe that it accomplished anything and I believe it to be morally wrong."
But when it came time to raise money, HLF repeatedly turned to Hamas leaders and activists, Miranda testified. He walked jurors through HLF's list of overseas speakers seized from the HLF office, linking dozens of them to the terrorist group.
Miranda cited examples for each and showed how he used telephone records and other means to solidify each speaker's Hamas link.
Then he showed jurors credit card statements showing how some of the speakers' travel was paid for on American Express cards held by defendants Mohammed El-Mezain, Shukri Abu Baker and Ghassan Elashi.
In 1990, a three-month tour through the U.S. and South America by three Hamas speakers helped bring in nearly $400,000, a letter found by agents in the home of Ismail Elbarrasse, an unindicted co-conspirator and former assistant to HAMAS leader Mousa Abu Marzook showed. The Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee, organized the tour and received a 10 percent cut of the money. Still, Miranda said, HLF's receipts accounted for more than 40 percent of the foundation's income that year.
Some of those speakers are part of the Jordanian-based Islamic Action Front (IAF), a Muslim Brotherhood party which Miranda described as a political party allied with Hamas. During a 2001 raid of HLF offices outside Dallas, agents found an IAF pamphlet with incendiary language that mirrors the Hamas charter.
The liberation of Palestine is a duty for all Muslims, the pamphlet said. And the conflict with the Jews is not political, but a religious and civilizational battle that can't be settled through negotiations.
Miranda produced records showing some fundraising activity occurred after the 1995 official designation of Hamas as a terrorist group.
"Neither I nor, to my knowledge, any of the other founders of this charity have had any connection whatever to Hamas, or to any terrorist groups or to terrorism," Baker said in his 2002 declaration.
But Baker's brother, Jamal, is a Hamas representative in Yemen who had lived in Sudan. In fact, three of the men on trial are related to Hamas leaders, Miranda said. Mufid Abdulqader is the brother of Hamas political bureau leader, Khalid Mishal. And Ghassan Elashi's cousin is married to Hamas political leader, Mousa Abu Marzook.
HLF also arranged conference calls in addition to bringing speakers in to the U.S. Some of the calls featured leaders of militant groups who praised Hamas actions and platform after the U.S. tagged it as a specially designated terrorist organization in 1995.
One conference call included 64 Islamic centers throughout the country and raised more than $18,000, Miranda said.
On another, a Pakistani named Qazi Hussein Ahmad said "the Muslim people stand by the people who are struggling [against occupation] …under the leadership of Hamas. We in Pakistan stand with the Palestinian people … stand with the Hamas. They will never accept any recognition of Israel by the unjust Muslim regimes," Ahmad said.
He is the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan.
Miranda returns to the witness stand Wednesday morning. Defense attorneys have not yet had the chance to cross examine him.