November 25, 2008

Pro-Palestine US charity guilty of funding terrorism

by David Masters

Five leaders of a former US-based Muslim charity have been convicted of financing terrorism.

Jurors in a Texas court found the leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development guilty on over 100 counts of funding terrorism, tax fraud, and money laundering.

According to the verdict, the charity provided a total of £8 million in funds to militant Palestinian group Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation in the US since 1995.

Prosecutors argued that the foundation provided funds to sponsor orphans and families in the West Bank and Gaza, whose families had been killed or put in prison due to Hamas attacks on Israel.

Defendants said it was a legitimate operation to help Muslim families in the land of Palestine.

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was the biggest Muslim charity in the US until it was closed by the US government in 2001.

It was set up to aid Palestinians oppressed under the Israeli occupation.

However, the charity was shut down and had its assets frozen in 2001 as part of a post-9/11 clampdown on terrorist sponsoring organisations.

The charity’s leaders could be jailed for 15 years on each count of supporting a terrorist group, and 20 years on each count of money laundering.

Mohammad Wafa Yaish, Holy Land’s former accountant, said it was a sad day.

He said it seems as though helping Palestinians in need is a crime these days.

Khalil Meet, a spokesperson for the Holy Land Foundation, said the jury had found humanitarian aid to be a crime.

He added that the group intends to appeal the conviction.

A date for sentencing is yet to be announced.

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