LatinaLista — At Latina Lista, I often write to give voice to those I consider without one — the undocumented, the impoverished, those who are discriminated against because of the color of their skin or the accent in their voices and who are summarily dismissed by traditional media, politicians and the general “unenlightened” public.
Yet yesterday in Dallas, TX, a gross miscarriage of justice was carried out that underscored the fact that there actually exists a group more voiceless than Latinos presently.
Yesterday the federal government finally got what it had been after — the conviction of all five leaders of the Muslim charity The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Prosecutors and the Bush Administration are hailing the convictions as another blow to terrorism.
Protester holds signs declaring innocence of Holy Land Foundation.
The Muslim men were convicted on all 108 criminal counts against them, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an Islamist organization the government declared to be a terrorist group in 1995.
All along, the Muslim men and their families have contended that they were giving money only to legitimate humanitarian aid for community welfare programs and Palestinian orphans. Needless to say, the government didn’t buy it and didn’t want the public to buy the possibility that they could be wrong yet again in labeling someone as a terrorist without credible evidence to support it.
So, the government did what it has become infamous under this administration for doing, it retried the accused on their terms and how they interpret the U.S. judicial system. One of their interpretations is that it’s OK for secret witnesses to testify.
When it became evident that the federal government was on a “terrorist hunt,” family members of the accused, at a loss to where to turn for help, reached out to different organizations. One of those organizations was LULAC which on February 2, 2008 adopted a resolution in support of the Holy Land Foundation’s right to a just trial.
What ensued this past year and culminated yesterday was far from the kind of trial that should have happened in this country and leaves several families destroyed and a whole community evaluating what is there to give thanks for in a country whose leadership has successfully instilled a fearing and hating of Muslims while resurrecting a dark chapter in our country’s history otherwise known as McCarthyism.
RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE HOLY LAND FOUNDATION
WHEREAS; the Muslim community has been the subject of “selective law enforcement” since September 11, 2001. Latinos are too familiar with the “racial profiling” and “selective law enforcement.”
WHEREAS; the Holy Land Foundation in North Texas has specifically been targeted for alleged criminal activities and has been persecuted for activities protected by the U.S. Constitution.
WHEREAS; LULAC is a firm believer in the constitutional rights of all persons regardless of race, color or national origin.
THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that LULAC District III strongly supports the due process rights of the Holy Land Foundation and the right to conduct humanitarian and educational activities in the USA and abroad.
What is even more amazing about this trial is that the discrepancies, the irregularities and lack of credible evidence in this trial have been reported all along in the traditional media but no one has dared challenge the “official” government opinion that these men are terrorists.
“Twelve good American citizens in the first trial didn’t convict anyone of anything,” said Linda Moron, attorney for former Holy Land chairman Ghana Leash. “And 12 good American citizens in the second trial convicted everyone of everything. If you can make sense of that … explain it to me.”
What makes less sense is that the Holy Land Foundation was never even accused of being a violent organization.
Holy Land wasn’t accused of violence. Rather, the government said the charity, based in Richardson, Texas, financed schools, hospitals and social welfare programs controlled by Hamas in areas ravaged by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Holy Land supporters told a different story. They accused the government of politicizing the case as part of its war on terrorism, while attorneys for the foundation said Holy Land’s mission was philanthropy and providing aid to the Middle East.
According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a terrorist is someone who systematically uses terror especially as a means of coercion. By their own admission, the federal government only accused Holy Land of financing welfare programs and so the argument that these men fit the bill as terrorists because they gave money to feed and clothe poor Palestinians victimized by the war between Israelis and Palestinians has no merit.
That would be like saying every Christian church that sends money and missionaries to help people that live in southern Mexico, in the heart of the Zapatista region, are aiding and abetting this Mexican revolutionary group. We can go further and say that the same can be said for any other humanitarian group that helps people caught in the crossfire of local conflicts in those countries with organizations comparable to Hamas are guilty of aiding those criminal units simply because they’re trying to provide a better quality of life for those caught in the middle.
Last night, following the verdicts, the Dallas-area Muslim community convened a Town Hall meeting where several members of the local LULAC chapter attended to lend their support.
Gloria Levario, a Dallas-area LULAC representative, told Latina Lista that she and other LULAC members made it clear to the Muslim community that LULAC was not going to “pack their bags” and leave them because of the verdicts. Instead, there is talk of contacting the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) to see what other avenues can be explored. Appeals are already being planned.
The sentences for these men, who have not participated in any violent act by the government’s own admission, entails “15 years on each count of supporting a terrorist group, and 20 years on each count of money laundering.”
Levario tells Latina Lista that one of the men has already been placed in solitary confinement which means visits with his family are limited and must be conducted behind glass. The reason why the government says this man needs solitary confinement is because his “life may be in danger in the general population.”
How that makes sense isn’t totally clear but it does bolster a perception that the American public is damn mad about terrorists in our midsts and we’re going to do something about it.
The reality should be that we are damn mad of creative law practices by our government when it comes to justifying a misguided approach to national security.
As the saying goes, there are always two sides to every story. So far, we’ve heard in plenty the government’s side. It’s time to give equal time to the families.
Noor Elashi is the 23-year-old daughter of defendant Ghassan Elashi and is also a writer. She has created the web site Freedom to Give.
At the site, Elashi has kept a detailed account of the case, the two trials, the men involved and, most importantly, the feelings of the families.
As Noor writes:
…you should care because if the government is allowed to say that someone doing perfectly legal humanitarian aid should be designated illegal for strictly political reasons, then what happens to you if your views, your religion or your country of origin falls out of political favor with the current administration?
Can you see the serious dangers of such powers?