Mistrial in US Muslim charity terror funding case

Tue Oct 23, AFP:

DALLAS, United States (AFP) - The US government's legal battle in the "war on terror" was dealt a stunning blow Monday when a mistrial was declared after a jury failed to reach a verdict against a Muslim charity accused of being a front for Palestinian militants ...

Juror William Neal, 33, said the trial fell apart because of a lack of evidence.

"There was really only one question: did Hamas control the zakat committees? There was not enough evidence," Neal said, referring to local charities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"I didn't see the defendants giving money to Hamas. They were giving money to the Palestinian people."

The complex trial involved two months of testimony and 197 charges against the charity and five of its officers, four of whom are US citizens.

When asked if the government would attempt to retry the case against what was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States, the lead prosecutor said "yes" but would not comment further because of a gag order.

Government prosecutors allege the foundation raised more than 12 million dollars for the Palestinian group Hamas, but they do not accuse the charity of directly financing or being involved in terrorist activity.

Instead prosecutors say humanitarian aid was used to promote Hamas -- a multi-faceted Islamist political, social and armed movement which now controls the Gaza Strip -- and allow it to divert existing funds to militant activities.

"People are reluctant in this country to hold people's political position against them," said Peter Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University who studies terrorism prosecutions.

"The fact that the defendants showed up at conferences with Hamas members and expressed sentiments that paralleled those of Hamas, was apparently not enough to bridge the gap for this jury."

The United States designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1995 and outlawed any support to the group, including humanitarian aid ...

"This is a stunning defeat for prosecutors and a victory for America's legal system," said Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"The American Muslim community will continue to fight for justice and for the right to help those who are in need, whether in this nation or overseas." ...

The government has, however, won guilty verdicts on terrorism support cases but none against an entity approaching the size of Holy Land.

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