First Published: 2004-07-29

US charges Muslim charity with funding Hamas

Holy Land Foundation seven men charged with conspiring to support Hamas, tax fraud, money laundering.


Middle East Online

By Griffin Shea - WASHINGTON

Ashcroft said four of the men were arrested around US

The United States charged a banned Muslim charity and seven men with conspiring to support the radical Islamic group Hamas, and with tax fraud and money laundering, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, along with its chairman, executive director, its lead fundraiser and four other officials were charged with 42 counts of illegal financial transactions, conspiracy, money laundering and tax fraud.

The indictment seeks 12.4 million dollars from the group and the seven men, which it says is the amount they funneled to Hamas between 1995 and 2001.

The Texas-based foundation, which had billed itself as the largest US-based Muslim charity until it was banned, was also accused of financial connections to Hamas since its creation in 1989, funding Hamas and families of Hamas martyrs and prisoners, and acting as a fundraiser for Hamas in the United States.

"The indictment alleges that the Holy Land Foundation intentionally cloaked its financial support for Hamas behind the mantle of charitable activities," Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters.

"The indictment alleges that the foundation and the defendants provided financial support to the families of Hamas suicide bombers, detainees, and activists knowing and intending that such assistance would support Hamas's terrorist infrastructure."

The indictment said the group sponsored orphans and needy families in the West Bank and Gaza, but sought orphans and families whose relatives had died or were jailed because of Hamas attacks on Israel, including suicide bombings.

"In this manner, the defendants effectively rewarded past, and encouraged future, suicide bombings and terrorist activities on behalf of Hamas," Ashcroft said.

The indictment said Holy Land had given financial aid to the family of slain Hamas leader Abdelaziz Rantissi, killed in an Israeli missile strike in April, when he was deported with other Palestinian leaders from Israel to Lebanon in 1993.

The US government shuttered the foundation and froze its assets in December 2001 as part of a crackdown on US-based Muslim charities that were suspected of funnelling money to terrorist groups around the globe in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The group had appealed the ban, but the US Supreme Court in March refused to consider reversing it.

No criminal charges had been filed against the group until a grand jury in Dallas, Texas handed up the indictment on Monday.

Holy Land's chairman Ghassan Elashi, one of the seven named in the indictment, has already been jailed in a separate case in which he was convicted of illegally shipping computers to Libya and Syria through a company called InfoCom.

Washington considers both countries as "state sponsors of terrorism."

Four of the men were arrested around the United States early Tuesday, but two others were believed outside the country and considered fugitives, Ashcroft said.

The two missing men were the group's executive director Haitham Maghawri and grants director Akram Mishal, he said.

Holy Land's president Shukri Abu Baker, director of endowments Mohammad El-Mezain, fundraiser Mufi Abdelqader, and its New Jersey representative Abdulraham Odeh were arrested and expected to appear in court later Tuesday.

Mishal is the cousin of Damascus-based Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal, while Abdulqader is his half-brother, the indictment said.

The US Treasury last year listed Meshaal as a "specially designated global terrorist," freezing his assets.


Mixed verdict by Israeli court for settlers who burned Palestinian teen alive

Syria regime denies chemical weapons use

Erdogan: Turkey will not apologise to Russia

Iran pilgrims break through Iraq border fence

Tunisia olive production at risk of halving by 2030

UAE says ready to commit ground troops in Syria

3 Saudi soldiers killed on Yemen border

Syrians negotiate rebel exit from Homs

Frustration grows as Tunisia keeps border shut over deadly blast

France says cooperation with Syria not possible under Assad regime

Iran: Saudi plan for Syria ignores Vienna agreements

Iraq PM says country has sufficient forces to fight IS

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning