Witness makes a bizarre argument (Sept. 24, 2008)

All Muslims are terrorists—that’s what prosecutors and a witness insinuated Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008 during the third day of the Holy Land Foundation retrial after the jury left for the day. It quickly became more apparent than ever before that the five defendants are being targeted for the religion they follow.

Individuals who often use statements such as these—By God. Thank God. In the name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Peace be Upon You. God Willing. May God Bless You. And Praise be to God—are Islamists, which makes them Muslim Brotherhood members, which makes them anti-Israeli, which in turn makes them terrorists, argued government witness Atef Shafik, a senior language analyst for the FBI.

“Persons who speak that way are persons who are Islamists,” prosecutor Jim Jacks told U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis as he pushed to include Shafik’s obviously bias perspective to the jury. “The way we speak gives away who we are.”

When asked to define Islamists, Shafik said, They are devout Muslims who follow the Sharia Law. They refer extensively to religious texts, such as Quran and Hadith. And they call for the destruction of Israel.

His sources for his conclusion, he explained, are the media and the fact that he lived in Egypt the first 27 years of his life.

Defense attorneys made it clear that Shafik, who is Christian, was no expert on Islam. Defense attorney Theresa Duncan said Shafik’s words expressed pure bigotry and were clearly “an attack on Islam.”

Judge Solis said he would make a ruling Thursday morning on whether Shafik’s perspective could be presented to the jury.

Five hours earlier, defense attorney Joshua Dratel—who represents Mohmmad El-Mezain—began his cross-examination of government witness Matthew Levitt. He clarified several points. First, Levitt wrote sections of his book while working at the Department of Treasury. Second, Musa Abu Marzook’s brother is in the Palestinian Authority—not Hamas.

Third, Levitt has never been to a zakat committee. Fourth, after a lot of controversy regarding Edward Said’s decision to throw a rock, Columbia University defended him on grounds of free expression. And fifth, the second Intifada resulted in nine times more Palestinian deaths than Israeli deaths.

Prosecutor Barry Jonas started redirect examination of Levitt by making a bizarre argument: Just because zakat committees are not blacklisted on the Treasury Department’s list, doesn’t make the entity legitimate. “The government doesn’t have a white list,” Levitt said. Jonas then asked Levitt about the purpose of bypass roads, to which Levitt replied, If Jewish settlers pass through, they will be fired at by Hamas attacks.
Jonas concluded by addressing a couple of weak questions.

Are Israeli sources inherently bad? Jonas asked.

No.

There’s also been praise for your book, not just criticism.

Yes.

Defense attorney John Cline did a brief re-cross examination of Levitt. Then defense attorney Nancy Hollander, who was the last one to re-cross, made one point clear: Levitt knew about Jamal Hamami’s association with Hamas and he mentioned him a few times in his Hamas book. Yet Levitt did not know until he testified in last year’s HLF trial that Hamami was invited to the U.S.

Second Witness

The entire testimony of Marcial Pereeo took less than half an hour. Pereeo, who also testified last year, spoke about tapes he coincidently found dug up in his backyard. His house was previously owned by Fawaz Mushtaha, a member of the same Palestinian band as defendant Mufid Abdulqader.

Pereeo said he found the tapes between one and two feet underground while he was getting his backyard leveled. He put them in the trash, but took them out soon after his neighbor old him the previous homeowner was raided and under surveillance. So he contacted FBI agents, who went to his home and collected the remaining videos. At this point, some jurors and courtroom visitors looked around with puzzled faces.

Third Witness

Paul Matulic, a staff member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, testified about a couple letters he received through Senator Warren Hatch’s office while he served as Hatch’s foreign policy advisor. The letters were from a Hamas spokesman requesting help in the release of Musa Abu Marzook who was arrested at JFK airport in July 1995. He dismissed one letter, but he sent another letter to the Department of Justice and the FBI because of one line that he saw as a “potential threat”: “Serious repercussions could ensue as a result.”

Defense attorneys argued that Musa Abu Marzook lived in the U.S. for more than a decade before his arrest. He traveled using his real name. And after several months of detention, Abu Marzook was released without charge and deported to Jordan.

Matulic was also a witness from last year’s trial.

Fourth Witness

Atef Shafik, the FBI language analyst mentioned above who also testified last year, was the government’s next witness. For nearly an hour, prosecutor Jim Jacks asked Shafik about his background and job description. Born in Ciaro, Egypt, Shafik immigrated to the U.S. at age 27. He has worked with the FBI for a little over 10 years and can distinguish between the various Arabic dialects. He pointed out each defendant in the courtroom and said he can recognize all of their voices.

Shafik will continue his testimony on Thursday, where jurors will likely hear intercepted phone calls between some of the defendants.

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