Holy Land Foundation mistrial reveals problems of prosecuting terror trials by jury
October 23, 2007
NOT GUILTY - Huge Defeat For Government In Holy Land Foundation Terror Prosecution
October 22, 2007 - San Francisco, CA PipeLineNews.org - In a stunning defeat for federal prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation terror prosecution, the defendants were today found either not guilty or escaped judgment because the jury was unable to reach a decision.
The two month long trial was followed by 19 tension filled days of deliberation in a Dallas, Texas court room.
The jury had actually rendered its decision late Thursday afternoon but it was sealed by acting Magistrate judge Paul Stickney until this morning when trial judge A. Joe Fish, returning from an out-of-town conference, read it in open court.
The HLF prosecution was trumpeted as perhaps the most important in U.S. history [in December 2001 President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft took the unusual step of announcing the seizure of Holy Land's assets] and was unique from several perspectives not the least of which has been the naming of prominent U.S. Muslim organizations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA], as unindicted co-conspirators.
The case was a complex one relying on a blizzard of testimony and documentary evidence, with lead prosecutor James T. Jacks stating in his opening remarks that HLF existed for the sole purpose of funding the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and that HLF engaged in a conspiracy to hide its motives, "because to tell the truth is to reveal what they were all about, the destruction of the state of Israel and replacing it with a Palestinian Islamic state."
The defendants in the case were, Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Haitham Maghawri, Akram Mishal, Mufid Abdulqader and Adulrahman Odeh, with each facing up to 35 counts which included money laundering and conspiracy.
Abdulqader was declared not guilty on all counts and El-Mezain and Abdulrahman Odeh were similarly found not guilty on the majority of the charges facing them.
Elashi is especially interesting since he also founded the Texas chapter of CAIR and was immediately prior to this case found guilty and sentenced to six-and-a-half years in the Infocom terrorism prosecution. Elashi was admonished by the judge during the trial for telling the jury, "This trial is an extension of a Zionist conspiracy."
From the start of this case, terror researchers were troubled by judge Fish's decision not to participate at all in the process called voir dire - the questioning of potential jurors, but rather deferred, allowing both the prosecution and defense attorneys to select the jury leading to the belief that some members of the jury might have been hostile to the government's case on political grounds.
Prosecutors had indicated before the decison that it would retry if the jury failed to render verdicts but that is now in question given the apparent collapse of the government's case.
In a late breaking development, judge Fish ordered the jury back into deliberation because some of its members indicated that they disagreed with some of the verdicts and a unanimous decision is required.
As we go to press a spokesman for the Justice Dept. was unwilling to comment on the case, pending the jury's response to the judge's further direction. http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=hlf10.22.07.htm