The US government suffered a stunning defeat on October 21 when a court in Dallas, Texas, refused to convict officials of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) charity despite a long government campaign against them. The HLF was shut down in December 2001 amid allegations that it was supporting terrorism and had links with Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement in Palestine. In the highly charged atmosphere after September 2001, every Muslim and every Muslim organisation in the US was suspect. The Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation in particular was targeted because it had been involved in supporting Palestinian widows and orphans, supplying them with food, clothing and medicine.
The government’s humiliation can be gauged from the fact that not a single guilty verdict was delivered in the long list of 197 charges brought by the prosecution against officials of the HLF. Although the case was declared a mistrial because jurors were deadlocked on some charges after 19 days of deliberation, on the most serious charges, alleging the Foundation’s material support for terrorism, the jurors handed down a clear “not guilty” verdict. The Dallas mistrial verdict followed a similar dismissal of terror-financing charges in trials in Chicago and Florida. “I thought they were not guilty across the board,” juror William Neal, a 33-year-old art director from Dallas, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying after the verdict. The case “was strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence,” said Neal.
Here is why. The government conceded that while the HLF provided assistance only to real charitable organisations and persons in need in Palestine, it nonetheless spun a fantastic tale that in so doing, the American charity freed Hamas funds from charitable work in Palestine to enable it to direct its resources to terrorism-related activities. However, it failed to provide any credible evidence of conspiracy or links between HLF officials and Hamas. Stringing the case together with “macaroni noodles” failed to impress the jurors. On October 18 the jury returned a sealed verdict that did not include a single guilty verdict on any of the 197 charges.
How the case was declared a “mistrial” is another story. When the jury delivered its verdict the judge was out of town, so its announcement had to await his return on October 22. By then, a few jurors had apparently changed their minds—or were “persuaded” to do so. Thus when the verdict was read and the jury polled, three jurors contested the unanimous nature of the verdict. At this point, the judge ordered them to deliberate further. After several hours, 11 of the 12 jurors concurred with the original verdict but one still did not, thus causing the judge to declare a mistrial. Most of the jurors said that the government should not re-try the case, but prosecutors have said that they will ask for a new trial. Whether they will actually go for a new trial, and if so whether the outcome will be any different, is difficult to predict, but one point is clear: the witch-hunt of Muslims in the US is far from over.
Along with the trial of HLF officials, the US justice department has named 306 individuals and organisations as un-indicted co-conspirators in the case. The list includes such organisations as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), its financial wing, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The designation of individuals and organisations as “un-indicted co-conspirators” leaves them with no legal remedy to restore their reputation. This is stigmatisation and being tarred with guilt merely by association – and with others who might be guilty, not with who definitely are guilty, at that.
This is clearly part of an extensive campaign of intimidation and harassment of Muslims and their organisations in the US. For instance, it is common for agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to park their clearly marked cars outside mosques during Friday prayers. They also routinely take down people’s license-plate numbers while other agents provocatively videotape Muslims going into or out of mosques. Such fear-mongering has given license to such hate-spewing activities as those underway on university campuses under the insulting title “Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week”.
Immediately after the events of September 2001, more than 1,200 Muslims were arrested in various parts of the US and accused of “supporting terrorism”. This mass hysteria led to the brutal treatment of many Muslims, some of whom were beaten up and threatened with execution; others were given the choice between spending years in jail or being deported on minor immigration infractions. All of these individuals decided to leave. Since 2002, an estimated 500 cases have been brought against Muslims in theUS. Half of these have been dismissed as being without merit. The rest have all resulted either in acquittals or in negotiated pleas on minor charges unrelated to the original indictment. Of the 500 cases, it is estimated that some 30 may have had some foundation in law.
In the opinion of M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law, DePaul University President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, “In no other area of prosecution has the Department of Justice produced such an extraordinarily high percentage of dismissed cases and cases resulting in guilty pleas on unrelated charges. This, in itself, raises concerns that these prosecutions were informed by the fear-mongering claims of the current administration that terrorism à la 9/11 might become an indigenous product and that American Muslims may be a new clear and present danger.”
Given the climate of hysteria deliberately created by the US government and eagerly supported not only by anti-Islam groups, such as the zionists, but also eagerly peddled by the media, the stage is being set for Muslims to suffer the same fate as the Japanese-Americans did during the second world war. It is inaccurate to call America a police state; it has long surpassed that stage, and is well on its way to becoming a fascist state. Muslims are the current target, but if this trend continues others will surely follow, possibly including those that are currently leading the charge against Muslims.