3RD LEAD (Adds David Cole's Opinion)

Mistrial declared in U.S. flagship terror-financing case

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 03:23 GMT]
A Federal Jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas Monday failed to convict any of the seven leaders of a Muslim Charity (the Holy Land Foundation) who were charged with supporting "Middle Eastern terrorists." The Chief Judge A. Joe Fish declared mistrial in the highly publicized case which was U.S. government’s largest and most complex legal effort to shut down what it contends is American financing for terrorist organizations in the Middle East, New York Times report said.

PDF IconGrand Jury Charges (855kb)
David D. Cole, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, said the jury’s verdict called into question the government’s tactics in freezing the assets of charities using secret evidence that the charities cannot see, much less rebut. When, at trial, prosecutors “have to put their evidence on the table, they can’t convict anyone of anything,” he said. “It suggests the government is really pushing beyond where the law justifies them going,” New York Times report said.

Professor Cole previously lead the legal challenge against the provision of the USA Patriot Act that criminalizes the provision of “expert advice and assistance” to proscribed organizations on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights representing four US Tamil organizations and a Tamil-American physician in a 2003 case.

PDF IconNYT: No Convictions in Trial
Against Muslim Charity (61kb)
The decision today is “a stunning setback for the government, there’s no other way of looking at it,” said Matthew D. Orwig, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal here who was, until recently, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

“This is a message, a two-by-four in the middle of the forehead,” Mr. Orwig said. “If this doesn’t get their attention, they are just in complete denial,” he said of Justice Department officials, whom he said may not have recognized how difficult such cases are to prosecute, the paper added.

PDF IconWP: Mistrial against Muslim Charity (68kb)
The prosecution charged that "the foundation supported terrorism by sending more than $12 million to charitable groups, known as zakat committees, which build hospitals and feed the poor," the paper said, and that "the committees were controlled by Hamas and contributed to terrorism by helping Hamas spread its ideology and recruit supporters."

PDF IconWP: Opinion piece by David Cole (72kb)
The government relied on Israeli intelligence agents, using pseudonyms, to testify in support of this theory.

But prosecutors appeared to have made little headway in convincing the jury, the Times report said.

Jimmy Gurulé , who was an undersecretary of the Treasury when that agency froze Holy Land’s assets, described the outcome as “the continuation of what I now see as a trend of disappointing legal defeats” in terror-financing cases. Two previous cases, in Illinois and in Florida, ended with hung juries and relatively minor plea deals, he said.

“The government spent 13 years and came back empty-handed,” said Khalil Meek, who is president of the Muslim Legal Fund of America and spokesman for an alliance called Hungry for Justice. “I would call that a victory — an overwhelming defeat for the government.”

“I thought they were not guilty across the board,” said the juror, William Neal, a 33-year-old art director from Dallas. The case “was strung together with macaroni noodles,” Mr. Neal said. “There was so little evidence.”


Related Articles:
12.07.07   Anti-terror Laws
29.11.06   US Judge strikes down provisions of terror act
06.10.04   U.S Courts to hear case against Anti-terrorism Law
05.10.03   Cole, Chang lead US Patriot Act challenge by Tamils


External Links:
WP: Mistrial Declared in Islamic Charity Case
NYT: No Convictions in Trial Against Muslim Charity

 

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