A judge declared a mistrial Monday for former leaders of a Muslim charity accused of funding terrorism after jurors who spent 19 days deliberating deadlocked on most charges.
Prosecutors said they would probably retry leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which the federal government shut down in December 2001.
The jury found one former Holy Land leader, Mohammed El-Mezain, not guilty on 31 of 32 counts. Two other defendants were initially acquitted on most or all charges, but in a confusing courtroom scene, three jurors disputed the verdict.
The judge declared a mistrial against those men and two other former foundation leaders for whom jurors never reached any decisions. . .
A juror told The Associated Press that the panel found little evidence against three of the defendants and was evenly split on charges against Baker and former Holy Land chairman Ghassan Elashi, who were seen as the principal leaders of the charity.
“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. There was so little evidence.”
Neal said the jury was split about 6-6 on counts against Baker and Elashi. He said the government should not retry the case — a call picked up by Holy Land’s supporters. . .
The case stirred emotions in the American Muslim community, at least partly because prosecutors named dozens of Muslim groups as unindicted co-conspirators.
The Holy Land case followed terror-financing trials in Chicago and Florida that also ended without convictions on the major counts.
The government “failed in Chicago, it failed in Florida, it failed in Texas,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — one of those unindicted co-conspirators. “The reason it failed is the government does not have the facts; it has fear.” (MORE)

 

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