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Islamic charity targeted by Feds

By Nicole Colson | August 6, 2004 | Page 2

THE BUSH administration has taken its war on one Islamic charity to a new level. In late July, the Justice Department charged the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development with having ties to the Palestinian group Hamas--which the U.S. government deems a "terrorist" organization.

The Holy Land group was the biggest Islamic charity in the U.S. before the Bush administration froze its assets in December 2001. A new 42-count indictment now alleges that the foundation provided $12.4 million to individuals and organizations linked to Hamas from 1995 to 2001.

Seven men, including foundation president Shukri Abu Baker and chairman Ghassan Elashi, are charged with conspiracy, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, tax evasion and money laundering. "To those who exploit good hearts to secretly fund violence and murder, this prosecution sends a clear message," Attorney General John Ashcroft pompously announced.

Ashcroft said the foundation gave money to the families of Hamas members killed and jailed by Israel. "In this manner, the defendants effectively rewarded past, and encouraged future, suicide bombings and terrorist activities on behalf of Hamas," Ashcroft said.

What a hypocrite! Every year, the U.S. government gives Israel more than $5 billion in economic and military aid, which is used to wage a punishing war of terror against Palestinians and prop up Israeli apartheid.

"We're one thousand percent confident of our innocence, and we're going to fight as long as we can to get the truth out," Abu Baker told the New York Times. "It's open season on American Muslims in this country, and that's what really scares me in all this."

According to foundation officials, the FBI indictment is based on falsified evidence. They say the FBI used a "distorted" translation of Israeli intelligence material in making the case against the charity.

The group said it hired an independent translating service in Oregon--which found 67 discrepancies or errors in translation in a four-page FBI document used in the case. The group also points out that the FBI indictment cites the foundation's apparent financial support for a Hamas-affiliated hospital in Palestine--without mentioning that the U.S. Agency for International Development had also helped the same hospital!

But there's no low that the Bush administration won't sink to in its witch-hunt of Arabs and Muslims. On the day of the indictment, Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, a former Holy Land Foundation employee, was taken into custody.

According to the Council of Arab-Islamic Relations, the government has told Hamdan--who has six children born in the U.S.--that he and his wife will be deported unless he gives information against the Holy Land Foundation. "They started off saying, 'If you just cooperate with us to the level that we're looking for, then we will make all of this go away,"' Hamdan's immigration attorney, Ban al-Wardi, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

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