DALLAS – Senior members of Hamas appeared at fundraising events sponsored by the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and a related charity called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), an FBI agent testified Tuesday.
Agent Robert Miranda took the witness stand Tuesday afternoon in the Hamas terror-financing trial of five former HLF officials. In addition to bringing speakers from overseas, Miranda said, HLF also arranged "conference calls" with speakers abroad to audiences in the United States. These calls included solicitations for contributions to HLF.
Jihad was a common theme in these conferences that demonized Jews as enemies and spoke against the Oslo peace process, Miranda said. Hamas symbols that glorified martyrdom were conspicuously displayed. Speakers from regions as diverse as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, the West Bank, Gaza, and Palestine appeared at MAYA (Muslim Arab Youth Association) conferences, IAP events, Intifada festivals, and Ramadan events.
Federal Prosecutor James Jacks said the government had earlier shown videos from these Intifada festivals featuring a singing troupe called Al-Sakrah performing skits and singing songs glorifying HAMAS and the killing of the Jews. Defendant Mufid Abdelqader was a part of the troupe and performed in the skits.
Miranda spoke about a list of overseas speakers found on a computer at HLF's office outside Dallas. The list was last modified on July 14, 1999. Miranda then read out Articles 15 and 19 of the Hamas charter that speak about "ideological mobilization" and "spreading the Hamas ideology out to the masses." HLF helped do this through speaking engagements, lectures, conferences, and Intifada festivals, Miranda said.
Article 15 encapsulates part of the Hamas ideology: "The Jihad for the liberation of Palestine is an individual duty." Miranda said several of the individuals listed on the HLF speakers list were senior Hamas leaders who also were listed in "Terrorist Marzook's phone book" – a reference to Hamas deputy political director Mousa Abu Marzook, who was arrested by U.S. officials in 1995 and ultimately deported. His phone book included listings for Hamas leaders Mohammed Siyyam, Mahmoud Al Zahar, Jamil Hamami, Hamza Mansur, Khalil Al Khodwa and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guide Yusuf al Qaradawi. Al Khodwa, a Hamas member, was deported from the U.S. in 1991.
Jurors were then shown a photo seized from the HLF's branch office in Paterson, New Jersey headed by defendant Abdulrahman Odeh. The photo shows Yusuf al Qaradawi, standing next to Hassan Nasrallah (leader of the designated terrorist organization Hizballah) and Khalid Mishaal (head of HAMAS and half-brother of defendant Mufid Abdelqader). Jurors were also shown a videotape of Qaradawi seized from HLF's office. In the video Qaradawi cites a passage from the Prophet's Hadith, also listed in Article 7 of the HAMAS charter: "The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!
Qaradawi was a featured speaker at several HLF-sponsored events.
Prosecutor James Jacks then showed jurors a pamphlet for a group called the Islamic Action Front (IAF), a Muslim Brotherhood political party in Jordan. Both HAMAS and the IAF originated from the Muslim Brotherhood and the party is an ally of Hamas, Jacks said. The pamphlet was seized in 2001 from the HLF office outside Dallas. The 1993 pamphlet states IAF's objectives and says the party is a follower of "Islamic Sharia law." It objects to self-rule in Palestine: "We condemn all who agree to the self-rule," which at that point went against the spirit of the Oslo Peace process. The document further states that "Jihad is the path to liberate Palestine" and "supporting the Mujahideen" is a "sacred, legitimate duty today and tomorrow." Several the individuals on the HLF speaker list were also members of the IAF, Miranda testified.
Invoices and credit card statements recovered from searches of the home of Ismail Elbarasse, an unindicted co-conspirator and former assistant to Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, show Hamas leaders Jamil Hamami and Mahmoud Zahar were featured speakers at several HLF-sponsored fundraising events. The "donations" collected at these events often were handed to them, the records show. When the speakers came to the U.S., their travel expenses were paid by American Express cards belonging to defendants Mohammed El-Mezain and Shukri Abu Baker. A video of Mohammed El Mezain with Hamami and Zahar occurred around the time when El Mezain accompanied the two Hamas men to HLF fundraising events.
Earlier Tuesday, FBI Agent Lara Burns completed her testimony. She was cross-examined by Joshua Dratel, who represents El-Mezain, a former HLF chairman. Like other defense attorneys, Dratel pointed out that many of the prosecution exhibits Burns were from the late 1980's and 1990's, several years before Hamas was designated a terrorist organization. Dratel argued that El Mezain was charged on only count one of the indictment, that of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hamas, however, was first designated as a terrorist organization in 1995 by a presidential executive order and then again as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.
During her redirect examination, Burns made it clear why prosecutors named the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. CAIR, which represents itself as a civil rights organization and as the voice of Muslim Americans, was created after Hamas members and supporters met in Philadelphia in 1993 to discuss ways to "derail" the Oslo Peace Accords. Among the topics covered was the need for a new political organization "which can benefit from a new atmosphere" and not be tied to the existing Islamist organizations.
Direct examination of Agent Miranda continues Wednesday.