November 26, 2008 | 3:18 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
How did I miss this news yesterday that five former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation were convicted of terror financing? From the Washington Post:
A federal jury in Dallas convicted five men with ties to a prominent Muslim charity of scores of criminal charges yesterday, handing the U.S. government a significant victory in its largest terrorism financing trial.
The verdicts against former leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once ranked as the country’s largest Muslim charitable organization, came only hours after a federal appeals court panel in New York upheld criminal convictions of three men accused of helping plot deadly bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Together, the developments strengthened the Justice Department’s power to choke the sources of funding that help fuel terrorist schemes—and to use warrantless electronic surveillance to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens suspected of engaging in international conspiracies.
Yet the victories in cases first filed as long as a decade ago underscore the lengthy path through the criminal justice system, which has afforded the government a mixed record in terrorism prosecutions.
Dennis M. Lormel, a former chief of the FBI’s terrorist financing operation section, said the guilty verdicts on the 108 charges in the Holy Land trial amounted to a “validation” of the government’s approach and encouraged his former colleagues to aggressively pursue similar investigations.
But Lormel said the most critical, practical development may have come in December 2001, when authorities raided the charity’s headquarters in Richardson, Tex., and seized its assets.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials accused Holy Land of funneling more than $12 million to the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The original case against Holy Land and its leaders included more than 100 unindicted co-conspirators, a status that several charities challenged as overreaching by the government.
“For many years, the Holy Land Foundation used the guise of charity to raise and funnel millions of dollars to the infrastructure of the Hamas terror organization,” said J. Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security. “This prosecution demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups.”
The federal government has had an incredibly
shoddy record. The first case against the Holy Land Foundation ended in a mistrial last year. I’d expect an immediate appeal.
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