The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of five former Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) directors this week for contributing funds to Hamas, a designated terrorist group.
After a mistrial in 2007, the appellants were convicted in 2008 on money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy charges. On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit rejected the appellants’ contention that testimony in the 2008 trial violated the Confrontation Clause.
Until it was closed by the U.S. government after 9/11, HLF was a pro-Palestinian charitable organization based in Richardson, Texas, which held itself out to be the largest Muslim charity in the United States. Its stated mission was to provide humanitarian assistance to needy Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank and Gaza.
After years of surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Government charged HLF with being a fundraising arm of Hamas, also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement.
The indictment charged the defendants with assisting Hamas by funneling money to certain "Zakat" committees located in the West Bank. Though Zakat committees are charitable organizations to which practicing Muslims may donate, the Government claimed that the committees the defendants supported were part of Hamas's social network.
Court records say that Hamas's social wing provides education and medical care to help Hamas win the "hearts and minds" of Palestinians, builds grassroots support for an anti-Israel agenda, and indoctrinates the populace in its ideology. The social wing also supports the families of Hamas prisoners and suicide bombers, and launders money for Hamas's activities, thus supporting Hamas's goals.
The appellants argued that the trial judge's decision to permit two Israeli witnesses to testify anonymously violated the Confrontation Clause. In a unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, "while no trial is perfect, this one included, we conclude from our review of the record, briefs, and oral argument, that the defendants were fairly convicted."