FBI agent concludes second testimony, secret Israeli witness called to the stand (Oct. 27, 2008)

Jurors anxiously leaned toward the screens on Monday, Oct. 27, 2008 as defense attorney Aaron Mysliwiec showed them the rest of a video that prosecutors cut off as he concluded his cross-examination of FBI agent Lara Burns. In the excerpt, a man said the Palestinian deportees whom Israel dropped on a deserted Lebanese mountaintop in 1992 were not just from Hamas and Islamic Jihad like government attorneys alleged.

“Some brothers did not belong to any group,” the man continued to say. “But they got used to praying at the mosque and they grow their bears. So they arrested them. We consider this probably an assault, not just on the land of Palestine, but on all Muslims worldwide.”

Prosecutor Barry Jonas then started his redirect examination of Burns by playing a video depicting a mother of a Palestinian martyr asking the HLF to send weapons. Did she ask for food or backpacks? Jonas asked. No, Burns replied. The duo addressed the term “ours,” claiming it was a cover-up word for Hamas. Burns said “ours” was used to describe zakat (charity) committees as Hamas institutions in numerous Palestinian Committee documents and transcripts of the 1993 Philadelphia meeting, where a group of Arab-American intellectuals met to discuss met at a hotel to discuss worldly affairs. In addition, Jonas showed the jury a Palestinian Authority document that lists the “Holy Land Fund” as being part of the “Hamas Financial Resources Worldwide.”

After a brief re-cross examination by defense attorney Greg Westfall, defense lawyer Linda Moreno—who represents Ghassan Elashi—began her re-cross examination of Burns. Moreno elaborated on the video depicting the death of Bassam Al-Bilbeisi, the ambulance driver who was killed by Israelis on his way to save the iconic Palestinian child, Mohammad Al-Durrah. In the video, Al-Bilbeisi’s wife says, They did not have mercy for what’s on his shoulder. Moreno explained that Al-Bilbeisi had a Palestinian Red Crescent badge. The beginning of the tape, Linda said, showed a truck with flour and food. Burns’ reply was not surprising: They were bags—I don’t know what was in them. As for the woman who asked the HLF to send weapons, her son was a Fatah member, Moreno clarified. She then asked, What benefit could her dead son get from food or backpacks? Burns mumbled.

In her quick re-cross examination of Burns, Nancy Hollander—who represents defendant Shukri Abu-Baker—clarified that many of the Palestinian Committee documents that prosecutors used to link the zakat committees to Hamas were undated and unsigned.

Fifteenth Witness

Prosecutors called their second-to-last witness to the stand: Jackie Northrup, IT Specialist for the FBI. Northrup’s job relating to the HLF case was to do detailed forensic analysis of all of the seized digital media. She and her team went through about 45 computers and 500 loose media, such as CDs and floppy disks. She made mirror images of the hard drives to the exact duplication of what was on the machines. Prosecutor admit into evidence three photo albums each printed from computers at different locations: the HLF Dallas office, the HLF Chicago office and the HLF New Jersey office. The photos, Jacks said, were originally Internet photos.

Defense attorney Greg Westfall—who represents Abdulrahman Odeh—clarified exactly how the pictures were obtained during his cross-examination of Northrup. He said the photos in all three albums were retrieved from the “temporary internet files.” The Internet Explorer directory copies every image displayed when a web page is loaded. Westfall showed some of the photos to the jurors, which included mug shots and pictures of men holding guns. He concluded by asking Northrup whether she saw news icons such as CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera in the directory. Yes, she said.

During his redirect examination, Jacks asked one major question: The picture have to go to the website where the picture is displayed so the picture can be copied, correct? Yes, Northrup answered.

Westfall then asked two major questions during his re-cross examination of Northrup: Only computer savy users know about these temporary internet files. Because of this fact, they are valuable to forensic examiners, right. Northrup replied yet again: Yes.

Sixteenth Witness

The retrial attendees were once again asked to leave the courtroom and listen to the testimony in an overflow room on the top floor. Only family members and several FBI agents were allowed to stay. A few hours earlier, justice advocates stood in front of the courthouse holding a large black sign that read: Secret Witness = Reasonable Doubt. That’s because the government’s final witness was yet another Israeli agent who testified under a false name. He calls himself “Avi” and he works as a legal advisor for the Israeli Security Agency. His job entails researching about Hamas through newspaper articles, television, Internet and academic publications. He’s also required to obtain Hamas-related videos.

He said Hamas has three wings: political, social and military. There are no key boundaries between these three wings, he said, adding that the social wing is very important because it’s a way to funnel money to the organization and “win the hearts and minds” of the Palestinians. Next, prosecutor Elisabeth Shapiro displayed a slideshow titled “Life Cycle of a Typical Hamas Activist.” Hamas is involved with the populace from the beginning of their lives, he said. The supposed stages of life in chronological order are: kindergarten, summer camps, health care, assisting the needy, mosques, universities and the recruitment to Hamas’ military wing.

When placed in Hamas-controlled kindergartens, children can absorb the philosophies and ideals of Hamas, Avi argued. Shaprio played a clip that Avi recorded from Arabic television in 2007—six years after the HLF was closed down. The footage showed Palestinian children at a kindergarten ceremony in camouflage garb and green Hamas headbands. While some soldier crawled and others cart wheeled, all of them chanted in Arabic, “I am Hamas. I do not fear death.”

Shapiro then read aloud a document that lists the goals of supposed Hamas-operated summer camps. She emphasized on this goal: “Planting the seed of jihad for the sake of God in their souls and the sacrifice for his homeland.” Shapiro asked Avi to give an example of a person who went through Hamas life cycle. Avi was quick to respond: A suicide bomber is one example.

Shapiro then asked Avi: Where does the social wing of Hamas get its money? From a global network of Hamas foundations, he said. Avi showed the jury a map he created stating that the HLF was the major Hamas charity operating in the U.S. Others operating worldwide included Interpal in England and CBSP in France, he said. Referring back to the zakat committees, Shapiro asked, Does Hamas identify which institutions it controls by name? Avi’s response: No. Shapiro then asked, Why? Avi said, Hamas is afraid the money flow will stop.

Prosecutors played a video of an Al-Jazeera interview with Hamas leader Khalid Mishal who told a viewer, The American ears are listening to us now. Donate to the organization of your preference and it will get to those who deserve it.

Shapiro also asked Avi, If an American researched knocks on the door of a Palestinian zakat committee and asks if it’s affiliated with Hamas, what would it’s officers say? Avi’s answer: I don’t expect the zakat committees to expose its affiliation with Hamas because they know they will be targeted.

Avi suddenly became “an expert” on Palestinian historic and current events. He said the Palestinian zakat committees were established by the Jordanian Waqf. Israel gave the committees a chance to operate freely since they were not perceived as “a real threat” at the time, Avi said. By 1988, Hamas began having a presence in the committees. And by 1994, the Palestinian Authority took over the administration of these areas. But by this time, the zakat committees were already under the control of Hamas, he claimed. He talked about the 2006 victory for Hamas in the parliamentary elections and the 2007 clashes between Fatah and Hamas after which Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.

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