Heads of US charity convicted on terror-financing charges
Five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation funneled money to organizations controlled by the militant group Hamas, a jury decided Monday.
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The accused signaled through a spokesman that they would appeal the verdicts which could see at least two of them face life in prison....
"While we respect the jury's decision, we believe this unjust and un-American verdict will be overturned on appeal," said Khalil Meek, a spokesman with Hungry for Justice, a support group for the accused.
Securing convictions in such cases has previously proved difficult. According to the AP, an original case against the charity ended in a mistrial in October 2007.
The convictions follow the collapse of Holy Land's first trial last year and defeats in other cases the government tried to build. President Bush had personally announced the freezing of Holy Land's assets in 2001, calling the action "another step in the war on terrorism."
According to The Dallas Morning News, the US government first began investigating the Holy Land Foundation in the early 1990s. In 2001, the foundation was shut down and its assets were frozen in the wake of 9/11. Indictments against the foundation's leaders were issued in 2004.
American Muslims have perceived the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation as an attempt to target their community and complain that the case has been politicized in the context of the war against terrorism, reports Al Jazeera.
Muslim groups say the prosecution has made American Muslims more hesitant to fulfil their religious obligation of helping the needy and the foundation's defenders accuse the government of selectively prosecuting the charity.
"The same charities that these guys gave to the American Red Cross is still giving to, the USAID is still giving to," Mustafaa Carroll of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.
But US security officials say this case deals a significant blow against terror, reports The New York Times.
"Money is the lifeblood of terrorism," Richard B. Roper, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted the case, said Monday in a statement. "The jury's decision demonstrates that U.S. citizens will not tolerate those who provide financial support to terrorist organizations."...
"Today's verdicts are important milestones in America's efforts against financiers of terrorism," Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. Mr. Rowan added that the prosecution "demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups."