February 18, 2012, New York –Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for rehearing in the case USA v. El-Mezain, et al. The defendants are five former officers and employees of The Holy Land Foundation (HLF), an organization that provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank until closed down by the government in 2001. They had requested a rehearing of the court’s earlier denial of their appeal of convictions for conspiracy to provide material support and other charges.
The daughters of the Holy Land Five said the following in reaction to the decision:
“The farther this case goes, the more we are encouraged to fight for justice. We’re proud Americans just like anyone else, and we all believe that the Constitution should be upheld, even if it means going to the Supreme Court. These men are innocent and this case is not over! We will continue to climb these rocky mountains until justice is served to all.”
The appellate court’s decision included an unprecedented holding allowing the use of an anonymous expert witness central to the prosecution’s case, known only to the defense counsel and the defendants by a pseudonym. The secrecy of his identity was a violation of the defendants’ right to confront the government’s sources against them. Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights say the men were denied their basic right to a fair trial, yet the lengthy prison sentences that accompanied it have been allowed to stand.
The men face prison terms ranging from 15 to 65 years for providing charitable support—food, school supplies, monthly stipends, and the like—to Palestinians in the West Bank through local zakat (charity) committees that, according to the government, were controlled by Hamas. There was no evidence that the Holy Land Foundation provided funds directly to Hamas or that its funds were used, or intended to be used, to support violence. The West Bank zakat committees whose charitable projects with HLF formed the basis for the men’s convictions also received funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations, and mainstream charities during the period of the government’s allegations against the Holy Land Foundation.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
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