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Federal judge declares mistrial in Muslim charity terrorism financing case

[JURIST] A Dallas federal judge declared a mistrial Monday on nearly all 197 counts in a controversial case against the Islamic Holy Land Foundation [LOC archived website; ADL backgrounder] charity and five of its leaders. Judge A. Joe Fish took the step after three jurors insisted that the verdicts of acquittal [verdict for HLF chairman Mohammad El-Mazain, PDF] read by the court were incorrect. According to the jury forewoman, the three jurors had not raised any issue on the findings during deliberations, saying that the verdicts were unanimous. Fish sent the jury back for further discussion but declared a mistrial when the matter could not be resolved.

Once the largest Muslim charity in the United States, the Foundation was shut down in 2001 by federal prosecutors who accused it of financing international terrorism by supporting the Palestinian group Hamas [BBC backgrounder]. It and five of its leaders were subsequently charged [JURIST report] in 2004 on 42 counts of conspiracy, providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to deal in the property of a terrorist, dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist, money laundering, conspiracy to impede an investigation by the IRS, and filing false tax returns. The defense said during closing arguments [JURIST report] at the trial in September that the charity's funds were used only to help Palestinians in need, while the prosecution argued the charity was in place only to funnel money used to support Hamas through Palestinian schools and charities. AP has more.

9:15 PM ET - In a statement late Monday the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Islamic civil liberties group in the US, called the declaration of a mistrial in the Holy Land Foundation case a "stunning defeat" for the prosecution [press release].

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