Last week, the Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for the Holy Land Foundation case. This decision affirmed the conviction of Ghassan Elashi, the co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. As many listeners may know, the Holy Land Foundation was considered the largest Muslim charity in the United States before the Bush administration shut it down after the September 11 attacks. In May 2009, a federal judge in Dallas handed down sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in prison to five of the charity’s founders and former fundraisers. Over a year before, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on all 108 counts against the Foundation and the five former officers on charges of providing material support to Hamas after the U.S. government designated it a foreign terrorist organization in 1995. During that trial, the prosecution used unrelated video of suicide bombers to emotionally sway the jury.
Ghassan Elashi was then sentenced to 65 years in prison for giving material support in the form of humanitarian aid to Zakat committees – Palestinian charities in the West Bank and Gaza, that prosecutors were alleging were fronts for Hamas. Ghassan is being held in the Communications Management Unit in Marion, Illinois.
- One of the arguments the defense lawyers made is that USAID, which is a government agency sent money to the same exact Zakat Committees which are these distribution centers in Palestine that the Holy Land Foundation sent charity to.
- That was their main charge, they were charged with giving material support in the form of humanitarian aid to Zakat Committees which the prosecutors were claiming were fronts for Hamas.
- In their appeal, one of their main arguments is that these Zakat Committees received money from many NGOs including an American agency.
- Another argument in the appeal was for the first time in US history, an expert witness who was an Israeli intelligence officer was allowed to testify under a pseudonym.
- My father recently had a phone call ban, because he put his name on a yoga mat, and it was considered destruction of government property.
- Our defense attorneys are not going to quit. They will ask the entire panel of appellate judges to re-hear the case, if that is denied, they’ll take the case to the Supreme Court.
- The foreign policy and politics of this country have been very favorable to Israel.
Guest – Noor Elashi – the daughter of Holy Land Foundation prisoner Ghassan Elashi. She is a writer based in Dallas, Texas. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, she worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In July 2008, she won the 3rd place Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Award for her manuscript titled Displaced, which she plans to expand into a memoir about the displacement of three generations of Palestinians: her grandmother, father, and herself.
On December 7, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced that it will not seek another death sentence for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Under Pennsylvania law, Mr. Abu-Jamal will now be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The National Lawyers Guild commented that while there is overwhelming doubt about what the state claims to be the facts in this case, even those allegations never supported a capital charge. That it has taken three decades to remove death from the table is astonishing.
The Guild has long maintained that Mr. Abu-Jamal is entitled to a new and fair trial. Procedural irregularities plagued his case from the outset, including blatant constitutional violations, from the judge allowing the prosecution to admit evidence of his affiliation with the Black Panther Party, in violation of the Supreme Court case Dawson v. Delaware, to the use of a faulty sentencing form that misled jurors during the penalty phase, in violation of the Supreme Court case Mills v. Maryland.
A great deal of relevant evidence has never been reviewed by any court, much less presented to a jury. This evidence includes several photographs of the crime scene which impeach the testimony of a police officer who was a key eyewitness, and proof that another individual was present and fled the scene of the shooting.
Mr. Abu-Jamal was charged at a time when, it was later revealed, there was extensive corruption within the Philadelphia Police Department. In 1995, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham promised the city that she would dismiss any case in which there was evidence of police perjury or purposeful misreporting of facts. Given the history of police misconduct in Philadelphia when Abu-Jamal was arrested, and the specific instances of police perjury in his case, the National Lawyers Guild has urged current District Attorney Seth Williams to act on his predecessor’s unfulfilled pledge.
Two days after the DA’s announcement, and commemorating International Human Rights Day, a free forum was held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to mark the 30th anniversary of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s incarceration. 1,200 Mumia supporters met to reinvigorate the movement for justice for Abu-Jamal and to say no to life in prison for the political prisoner. “Because for 30 years Abu-Jamal has been unconstitutionally imprisoned in death row torture, justice for Mumia will not be served by life imprisonment, but by freedom,” said Dr. Johanna Fernandez, professor of history at Baruch College of the City University of New York and a co-producer of the forum. Fernandez wrote and produced a documentary that debuted at the Constitution Center in 2010 on Abu-Jamal’s case. Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal examines evidence pointing to Abu-Jamal’s innocence and exposes the inequities of the American justice system.
- Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor of the 1985 MOVE Massacre.
- Former poet laureate Amiri Baraka.
- Attorney Michael Coard, The National Constitutional Center
- Mumia Abu-Jamal’s daughter Goldii recites “Trap Door.”
The December 9 forum was co-sponsored by Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the National Lawyers Guild and International Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.