Francis FitzGibbon in London Review of Books:
Zakat, the Quranic obligation on Muslims to give alms for the relief of poverty, is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Holy Land Foundation (HLF), founded in 1988 by American citizens of Palestinian heritage, raised money for distribution by zakat charitable committees in Gaza and the West Bank. Most of it went to buy food, clothes and education for children. Between 1992 and 2001 the foundation raised at least $56 million. On 3 December 2001 the US Treasury Department decreed that the HLF was a ‘specially designated global terrorist’ (SDGT), and the next day, without informing the foundation of this decision, the FBI closed down its offices. Five staff members and the HLF itself were charged in 2004 with a variety of terrorism offences, on the basis that the money the organisation raised was ultimately going to fund Hamas.
The first trial, in 2007, resulted in a hung jury. The defendants were convicted in a retrial the next year. The leaders of the HLF, Shukri Abu Baker and Ghassan Elashi, are serving 65-year sentences and will die in jail. Three others were given prison sentences of 15 or 20 years. They lost their appeals, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, despite patent failings and abuses in the legal process. The 9/11 attacks precipitated much hasty and panicked action by the US authorities: hence the Patriot Act and the other instruments of at best dubious legality that the Bush administration used to advance the war on terror. But as a tale of legal chicanery by a government, of moral panic and of complicity on the part of the judiciary, what happened to the HLF is hard to beat.
Read the rest here.