The trial against what was once the nation's largest Islamic charity ended in a mistrial Monday as federal prosecutors in Dallas were unable to gain a conviction on charges that the group's leaders had funneled millions of dollars to Mideast terrorists.
The jurors in the high-profile case acquitted Mohammad el-Mezain, the former chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, on virtually all the charges brought against him and deadlocked on the other charges that had been lodged against four other former leaders of the charity.
Monday's developments were a setback for the Bush administration, which had frozen the group's finances three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and indicted its officials three years later on charges that they provided funds in support of Hamas, a militant Palestinian group that the United States considers a terrorist organization.
During the trial, the government did not argue that Holy Land directly supported terrorist groups. Instead, prosecutors asserted that the charity provided money to committees in the West Bank and Gaza that were controlled by Hamas and, in doing so, created goodwill toward the militant organization, helping it recruit members.
But at least some of the jurors apparently did not see strong links between the charity and terrorists.
Juror William Neal told the Associated Press that the panel found little evidence against Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader, a top fundraiser for Holy Land, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the group's New Jersey representative. It was evenly split on charges against Shukri Abu Baker, the charity's former chief executive, and former Holy Land chairman Ghassan Elashi, who were seen as Holy Land's principal leaders. . .
"It's a huge sense of relief," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who was there. "Twelve regular people in the U.S. couldn't be convinced to issue a single guilty verdict. That's a sign of good news that the justice system is working and the campaign of fear is apparently not working." (MORE)