An old financial bond between the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) is generating new attention this week as jurors continue deliberating HLF's terror-support trial.
Five HLF officers are accused of illegally steering more than $12 million to Hamas-controlled charities in the West Bank and Gaza. CAIR is fighting its status as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. Documents introduced into evidence indicate both HLF and CAIR were part of a Muslim Brotherhood committee in the U.S. created to help Hamas.
When it was formed, CAIR was helped out by $5,000 from HLF.
Matt Epstein, then the IPT's assistant director, cited the HLF donation to CAIR in Senate testimony delivered in 2003. Epstein cited CAIR's own IRS forms in backing up his claim. Awad denied this in written testimony given to the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security.
"This is an outright lie," Awad said. "Our organization did not receive any seed money from HLFRD. CAIR raises its own funds and we challenge Mr. Emerson to provide even a shred of evidence to support his ridiculous claim."
IPT Executive Director Steven Emerson did better than that. Through Epstein, he provided the Senate committee with HLF's original seed money to CAIR, drawn on a Saudi Arabian bank account.
In addition to Farah's report, the Web site Anti-CAIR posted a copy of the check itself this week, lest there be any doubt.
Awad's testimony wasn't the first time CAIR denied the HLF support. Earlier in 2003, during a deposition for a civil case, CAIR co-founder and then-chairman Omar Ahmad was asked, "Did they [HLF] give you any money to help start CAIR?" He responded unequivocally, "No."
A week after the Senate hearing, Awad offered a supplement to his original testimony: "CAIR is a nonprofit, grassroots organization. Our only source of income is through donations and the amount in question was a donation like any other."
Awad then attempted to minimize the significance of the CAIR/HLF money trail: "HLF was not indicted for any criminal activity at the time of its donation in 1994 and its assets were frozen by the Justice Department seven years later in December 2001." He added that HLF's "relatively small donation" came "seven years before any wrongdoing was attributed to Holy Land Foundation."
Transcripts from government surveillance tapes make clear, however, that CAIR's founders were fully aware of the support HLF leaders voiced for Hamas well before accepting the money.