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Federal judge sentences Islamic charity officials accused of funding terrorism

[JURIST] A US federal judge Wednesday sentenced [DOJ press release] the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) [ADL backgrounder; case materials] and five of its officials pursuant to their convictions of providing material support to Palestinian group Hamas [BBC backgrounder]. District Judge Jorge Solis sentenced Shurki Abu Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh to prison terms ranging from 15 to 65 years and reaffirmed the jury's $12.4 million judgment against the group. The parties were convicted [JURIST report] in November under the "material support" provision of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [text], which provides that money in the hands of a terrorist organization, even if for charitable purposes, supports the organization's terrorist objectives. Their convictions also included conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to impede and impair the IRS, and filing false tax returns. Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris said that the sentences "should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief." Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' deputy political leader, claimed the ruling was politically motivated [AP report].

HLF, once the largest Muslim charity in the US, was shut down in 2001 by federal prosecutors who accused the group of financing international terrorism by supporting Hamas. The group and officials were originally charged [original indictment, PDF; JURIST report] in 2004 on 42 counts of conspiracy, dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist and various other charges. The group defended themselves on the grounds that the charity's funds were used solely to help Palestinians in need [JURIST report], but the prosecution maintained that the group was in place only to funnel money used to support Hamas through Palestinian schools and charities.

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