Supporters of Mohammad El-Mezain listened as attorney Alex Landon spoke
outside federal court in San Diego yesterday. El-Mezain, charged with
funneling $12.4 million to the terrorist group Hamas, agreed to go to Texas
to face the charges.
Scores of people crowded the federal courthouse yesterday in support of a
prominent San Diego Muslim cleric whose arrest on terrorism charges
inspired Jewish, Catholic and Protestant community leaders to come to his
defense. Mohammad El-Mezain, a former chairman of a Muslim charity shut
down by the U.S. government, was charged last week with funneling $12.4
million to the terrorist group Hamas since 1995.
The indictments of El-Mezain, the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for
Relief and Development, and six other directors were announced last week by
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. El-Mezain, 51, a legal U.S. resident,
was arrested July 27 in Scripps Ranch as he returned home from morning
prayers at a local mosque.
He has been held without bond. At yesterday’s hearing in San Diego,
El-Mezain agreed to go to Dallas to face grand jury charges and to postpone
his bond hearing until he arrives in Texas. He will plead not guilty and
ask a judge to allow him to post bond after he arrives in Texas, said his
lawyer, Alex Landon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Skerlos said El-Mezain
no longer was considered a danger to the community but remains a flight
risk and should be denied bond. A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in Dallas”¦
Landon gave the judge a package containing about 20 letters from friends
and community leaders, praising El-Mazain for his efforts to bring together
people of different faiths after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and
for his spiritual leadership in the community.
One letter was signed by Roland Lanoue of the National Conference for the
Community and Justice, formerly the National Conference of Christians and
“In countless meetings, meals and car trips together, Mr. El-Mezain never
said anything or acted uncharitable when he, as a Palestinian and
Jordanian, and I as an American Jew, discussed Israel and Palestine. I know
him to be a man of compassion,” the letter from Lanoue said”¦
After the hearing, El-Mezain’s supporters rallied with cheers, sermons and
prayers for his release.
“Everybody loves him,” said a friend, Kifah Samara. “This person has been
here, not only for our community, but for all communities.”
The Rev. Art Cribbs of Christian Fellowship United Church of Christ in
Emerald Hills delivered what sounded like a sermon before television
cameras and a bouquet of microphones.
“We have prayed together on these very steps, we have been in mosques, in
churches and cathedrals!” Cribbs said. “He is a deeply loving, a deeply
scholarly, a deeply generous person.
“I do not believe these charges that have been brought against him, this
human being, this father, this religious person, this imam. I do not
believe!” Cribbs said to a cheering crowd”¦