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Terrorism  
Backgrounder: The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development RULE Indicted HLF Leaders

Posted: May 28, 2009


Introduction
Connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas
Indicted HLF Leaders
Other HLF-Related Charges

On November 24, 2008, the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and five of its founders and former fundraisers were convicted of providing material support for Hamas and other related charges. Two others named in the indictment were out of the country and did not stand trial. On May 27, 2009, a federal judge in Dallas handed down sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in prison to five of the former officers of HLF. The following is some background information on all seven:

 

Shukri Abu-Baker: Co-founder, President and Chief Executive Officer. Abu-Baker was found guilty of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas), and of additional counts, including tax fraud and money laundering. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

 

  • According to former FBI counterterrorism director Dale L. Watson, "Numerous FBI sources have identified Baker as being a member of Hamas." Abu-Baker was introduced as the "senior vice president in Hamas" at a 1994 Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) conference in Culver City, California, according to the FBI. IAP is a now-defunct Hamas linked anti-Semitic propaganda organizations.

  • According to evidence used in the trial, Abu-Baker was one of three HLF leaders who attended an October 1993 meeting in Philadelphia of the Palestine Committee, which was set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas. Participants discussed fund raising for Hamas and strategy to oppose the Oslo peace accords.

  • At least eleven trips by Hamas leaders to the U.S. were charged to two American Express accounts bearing Baker's name along with HLF's, according to the FBI. (One account used HLF's original name- the Occupied Land Fund.)

  • Abu-Baker's brother, Jamal Abu-Baker, is the Hamas representative in Yemen.

Ghassan Elashi: Co-founder, Chairman and former Executive Director. Elashi was found guilty of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas), and of additional counts, including tax fraud and money laundering. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

 

  • According to evidence used in the trial, Elashi attended the October 1993 Palestine Committee meeting in Philadelphia.

  • On October 12, 2006, Elashi was sentenced to more than six years in prison for a separate case involving terrorism-related charges. Elashi committed the offenses through a Richardson-based computer company, InfoCom, which he ran together with several of his brothers who were also convicted for similar charges. Elashi was convicted of 21 counts, including conspiracy, money laundering and dealing in terrorist property, for handling and trying to conceal an investment by senior Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzuq in InfoCom. On July 7 of the previous year Elashi was found guilty of illegally exporting goods to Syria and of money laundering, which was also done through InfoCom.

  • Elashi was one of the founders of IAP.

  • Elashi is related by marriage to Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzuq.

Mohammed el-Mezain: former Chairman, Head of Operations in California, and "Director of Endowments." Mezain was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas) and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

 

  • At the 1994 IAP conference in Culver City, el-Mezain stated that funds raised by HLF "were strictly dollars for Hamas," according to former FBI counterterrorism director Dale L. Watson.

  • El-Mezain told the audience at a Los Angeles Islamic conference in late 1994-early 1995 that he had raised $1.8 million for Hamas inside the United States in 1994, according to the FBI. The keynote speaker at the conference, Sheik Muhammed Siyam, was introduced as head of Hamas's military wing. Siyam told the crowd: "Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all. Exterminate them. No peace ever."

  • As chairman of HLF, el-Mezain "undertook a three-week fund-raising trip to Brazil and followed up on HLF activities there," according to the December 1993 issue of HLF's newsletter. (According to a report about terrorism financing prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice, "Ayman Ghotme, who has also been a fundraiser in the Tri-Border Area [of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay] for the Holy Land Foundation" headed a local Hamas cell.)

  • El-Mezain is a cousin of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzuq.

Mufid Abdulqader: Top fundraiser. Mufid Abdulqader was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas) and of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

 

  • Abdulqader was a project manager with the Dallas Public Works and Transportation Department and oversaw the construction of a neighborhood development project in Oak Hills, Texas, in 2001.

  • Abdulqader is the half brother of Khalid Mishal, a top Hamas leader.

Abdulrahman Odeh: Director of HLF East (New Jersey). Odeh was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas) and of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

 

  • Several media accounts have mentioned that Odeh's office wall was decorated with grisly photos of victims from the 1994 Hebron massacre, in which a radical Jewish settler opened fire in a mosque, killing 29. In a July 2000 interview, Odeh said: "some of the orphans that we are supporting are the children of Hamas martyrs."

Haitham Maghawri: Executive Director and Social Services Coordinator. Maghawri was indicted on several counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas), and additional counts, including money laundering.

 

  • Maghawri had fled the U.S. before the government submitted the HLF indictments in July 2004 and was not present at the trial.

  • According to evidence used in the trial, Maghawri attended the October 1993 Palestine Committee meeting in Philadelphia.

  • Maghawri was sent by HLF to bring money to the nearly 400 Hamas activists Israel expelled to south Lebanon in 1992, according to Shukri Abu Baker.

  • As part of a 1990 attempt to gain political asylum in the United States (he claimed he was being persecuted for his religion by Amal, a Shiite militia), Maghawri told the Immigration and Naturalization Service that he had been arrested several times in Lebanon, once for placing a car bomb. His asylum request was denied; he subsequently married a U.S. citizen and obtained permanent residency status.

Akram Mishal: Director of Projects and Grants. Mishal was indicted on several counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (Hamas), and on additional counts, including money laundering.

 

  • Mishal had fled the U.S. before the government submitted the HLF indictments in July 2004 and was not present at the trial.

  • Mishal is a cousin of Khalid Mishal, a top Hamas leader.




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