Stressing her client’s years of work helping impoverished Palestinian children, a defense lawyer on Wednesday asked a federal jury here to look beyond what she described as fear-mongering and politically motivated charges against a Muslim charity the government has accused of financing the terrorist group Hamas.
Her client, Ghassan Elashi, the former chairman of the charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, “did not support Hamas,” said the lawyer, Linda Moreno. “He supported his people,” who are living amid poverty and violence.
But the government, in its conclusion to this closely watched prosecution, said the foundation was, from its inception, linked to radical groups promoting jihad. Like Hamas, it was “born in the bosom of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Nathan F. Garrett, a federal prosecutor, using a phrase he repeated several times during his almost three-hour summation.
The Holy Land foundation, which was based in a Dallas suburb, and five of its officials are charged with conspiracy, money-laundering and providing financial support to a foreign terrorism organization by sending more than $12 million to Palestinian charities.
The government contends that these charities, known as zakat committees, were controlled by Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization since 1995, and that the donations helped Hamas win popular support.
Lawyers for the defendants have argued here that there was no evidence that the charities were controlled by Hamas, and that the money the foundation sent to the charities was used to build hospitals and support needy families. Mr. Garrett said the government had not tracked all the money, but had identified some members of these zakat committees as Hamas leaders. (MORE)