CAIR: N. TEXAS MUSLIMS SAY CASE IS POLITICAL
For many North Texas Muslims, the Holy Land Foundation investigation is a saga fueled by prejudice.
Local Muslim leaders have long decried the government's "witch hunt" of what they say was a charitable foundation dedicated to helping Palestinian refugees caught up in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
They say the investigation and the trial of Holy Land and seven of its organizers is a product of "Islamophobia," which was the focus of a conference last weekend in Dallas sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"This politically driven indictment will break new ground and potentially make new law by attempting to criminalize humanitarian aid," said Khalil Meek, president of the Plano-based Muslim Legal Fund of America, which is helping pay for the Holy Land defendants' attorneys.
For the family of Ghassan Elashi, the trial is the latest in more than a decade of troubles with the federal government. Investigations have included interrogations, searches, arrests and the wiretapping of conversations.
"The trial has taken over my thoughts during the day and my dreams during the night," said Noor Elashi, daughter of Mr. Elashi and a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Prosecutors accuse Mr. Elashi and his co-defendants of using Richardson-based Holy Land to funnel millions of dollars to the terrorist organization Hamas.
But for the 21-year-old, the case is about her father's name and reputation.
"While I'm driving, while I'm working, while I'm eating, it's all I think about," she said. "I keep asking myself, 'How can my father and the other co-defendants be accused of supporting heinous acts of violence when all they did was feed, clothe and help educate Palestinian orphans and widows?' "
Today's trial is the third involving her family members. In 2004 and 2005, her father and uncles defended themselves against accusations that they did business with terrorist nations by shipping computer equipment to Syria and Libya.
Defense attorneys argued that the government's accusations were overblown because the men were Muslim and amounted to nothing more than minor export violations that should have been handled with a fine.