A Dallas, Texas jury took only eight days to decide Monday evening that five officials of the Holy Land Foundation were guilty of financing Hamas, which the American government has outlawed as a terrorist organization. Last year, a jury failed to reach verdict, and the defendants jubilantly celebrated the inability to decide.
Lawyers for the defendants said they will appeal the federal court decision, which convicts the officials of 108 offenses that could carry life sentences and fines of millions of dollars.
The 42-day trial featured the unprecedented testimony of an unidentified Israeli intelligence official. Defense lawyer Nancy Hollander declared that one of the arguments in the appeal will be the court's having allowed an anonymous expert to testify.
"Our clients were not even allowed to review their own statements because they were classified - statements that they made over the course of many years that the government wiretapped," she told the Dallas News. "They were not allowed to go back and review them. There were statements from alleged co-conspirators that included handwritten notes. Nobody knew who wrote them."
One family member of a defendant cried, "My dad is not a criminal. He's a human!"
Supports of the Holy Land Foundation charged government prosecutors with instilling fear into the jurors in order to win a conviction. The defendants testified that Holy Land was a legitimate charity that provided help for Arabs living under "occupation."
Chief prosecutor Richard B. Roper said after the verdict, "Money is the lifeblood of terrorism. The jury’s decision demonstrates that United States citizens will not tolerate those who provide financial support to terrorist organizations."
Prosecutor Barry Jonas told the jurors before they retired to discuss a verdict that Holy Land financed terrorist recruitment centers that were part of a "womb to the tomb" operation.