NEWS

Muslim Charity Trial Declared Mistrial

By Matthew Harwood

The government's "flagship" terrorism-financing case ended in mistrial yesterday, reports The New York Times.

The case involved the Holy Land Foundation, which the government argues indirectly supports Hamas suicide bombings.

[T]he prosecution said, the foundation supported terrorism by sending more than $12 million to charitable groups, known as zakat committees, which build hospitals and feed the poor.

Prosecutors said the committees were controlled by Hamas and contributed to terrorism by helping Hamas spread its ideology and recruit supporters. The government relied on Israeli intelligence agents, using pseudonyms, to testify in support of this theory.

The Washington Post reports:

The jurors in the high-profile case acquitted Mohammad el-Mezain, the former chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, on virtually all the charges brought against him and deadlocked on the other charges that had been lodged against four other former leaders of the charity.

In the aftermath of the mistrial, reaction was immediate.

Matthew D. Orwig, a former U.S. attorney who sat on the U.S. attorney general's advisory subcommittee on terrorism and national security, described the verdict as “a stunning setback for the government, there’s no other way of looking at it” and as "a two-by-four in the middle of the forehead." Orwig said the mistrial should show the Justice Department how difficult a case such as this one is to prove. 

A juror in the case, told the Post that the case ""was strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a controversial Islamic-American nonprofit organization, called the mistrial "a stunning defeat" for the U.S. government.

The U.S. government said it would retry the case.

For more coverage of the verdict, see this article from the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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