Lawyers for Muslim charity leaders accused of aiding Middle East terrorists scored a rare win in court Tuesday when a federal judge blocked some evidence seized by Israeli soldiers during raids of Palestinian organizations.
The evidence included memos indicating that the governing Palestinian Authority believed the militant group Hamas controlled Muslim social agencies supported by the Texas charity, according to a court filing by prosecutors.
Defense lawyers had objected that some of the documents were not signed or dated, and they cast doubt on Israel's handling of the evidence.
Five former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development are charged with funneling millions of dollars to Hamas, which the U.S. government designated a terrorist organization in 1995. The trial is in its fourth week of testimony.
Federal District Judge A. Joe Fish has ruled in the prosecution's favor on a wide range of issues, from allowing the government to call Israeli secret agents as witnesses to denying defense requests for a mistrial.
On Tuesday, however, Fish ruled against prosecutors and blocked the jury from seeing 12 documents that prosecutors contended linked Hamas to charities called zakat committees that were funded partly by the Holy Land Foundation, or HLF.
Prosecutors had said in a court filing that many of the disputed documents were seized from offices of the Palestinian Authority and "reflect the PA's understanding that the committees supported by HLF - and HLF itself - were controlled by Hamas."
The precise significance of the judge's ruling was difficult to gauge. The judge did not explain his ruling, and lawyers have been barred from talking to reporters about the case.