At first, three of the six defendants in the Holy Land Foundation trial were found not guilty. Then, they weren't. Then, one was found not guilty. But not on all charges.
Such was the confusion Monday at the Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse in downtown Dallas, where jurors rendered their verdict in the nation's largest terrorism financing case.
After 14 years of investigation, two months of trial, 19 days of deliberations and four more of waiting, the Holy Land case is essentially back where it started. The judge declared a mistrial on nearly all the charges, and prosecutors can retry everyone.
But the confusion quickly turned to jubilation among Holy Land supporters.
"Like Rosa Parks once was persecuted for simply sitting in a front seat of a bus, my dad was singled out for feeding, clothing and educating the children of Palestine," said Noor Elashi, daughter of defendant Ghassan Elashi.
The defendants had arrived Monday morning in a cold rain that seemed to swirl from every direction.
"We'll be all right," Shukri Abu Baker, the former Holy Land CEO, told a United Church of Christ minister, there to support him. He then looked up to the ceiling. "We're in good hands," he said.
More than 200 people, most of them Muslim, eventually assembled in a sixth-floor cafeteria at the federal courthouse to await the verdicts. The jury made up its mind Thursday, but the verdict had been sealed over the weekend because the judge was out of town. . .
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, drew links to McCarthyism in the 1950s.
"Today's campaign has a different name and a different target," said Mr. Awad, whose group is an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. "The campaign is anti-terrorism and the target is the American Muslim community." (MORE)