MLFA Disappointed in Opinion Issued on HLF Defendants’ Habeas Petition

DALLAS – April 2, 2015 – Representatives from Muslim Legal Fund of America, a charity that funds legal cases in defense of constitutional rights, are dissatisfied with Judge Jorge Solis’s refusal to allow an evidentiary hearing regarding new evidence that may prove that five Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development defendants are innocent.

Representatives of MLFA say judge failed to address core issues, will seek appeal

On October 25, 2013, attorney Gary Udashen filed a motion § 2255, more commonly known as a habeas corpus petition, on behalf of five Holy Land Foundation defendants (Abdulrahman Odeh, Mufid Abdulqader, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammad El-Mezain, Shukri Abu Baker, v. United States of America [Civ. No. 3:13-CV-4299-P, Civ. No. 3:13-CV-4300-P, Civ. No. 3:13-CV-4301-P, Civ. No. 3:13-CV-4302-P, Civ. No. 3:13-CV-4303-P and Crim. No. 3:04-CR-0240-P]). Final documents for their habeas petition were submitted on June 11, 2014. The motion focused on two issues:

  1. New evidence that proves the Holy Land Foundation defendants are actually innocent.
  2. Failure to pursue and present this evidence during trial by defense attorneys constitutes ineffective assistance.

On March 30, 2015, Judge Solis issued his denial of the defendants’ motion.

Khalil Meek, executive director of MLFA, said that the denial is a tragic injustice and the justifications detailed in the judge’s opinion are disappointing.

“Solis failed to address core issues in the motion,” said Meek. “For example, he ignored the question of what legally constitutes control, which could have major implications for other organizations trying to obey the law while operating under new, dangerously vague anti-terrorism statutes.”

After reviewing the judge’s opinion, Meek and Udashen agreed that an appeal of this habeas denial is warranted. Meek said this case should continue to be fought to properly address issues such as the legal definition of control, how to include overseas witnesses to ensure due process for American defendants and whether blocking eye-witness testimony violates defendants’ Six Amendment rights.

Case Background

During the trial, prosecutors agreed that all money provided to the Zakat Committees by Holy Land Foundation was used for humanitarian purposes. Prosecutors claimed, however, that some aid constituted “material support of terrorism” because members of the Zakat Committees were allegedly under the direction and control of Hamas.

Prosecutors had no direct evidence of these allegations, but instead relied on the testimony of unidentified Israeli intelligence agents. The secret so-called “expert witnesses” provided only opinion that Zakat Committees were controlled by Hamas – no evidence.

Unlike the prosecutors, who could not produce any direct evidence of the Zakat Committees being controlled by Hamas, the legal team funded by MLFA secured sworn affidavits from more than a dozen members of the Zakat Committees. These sworn testimonies contradict the prosecutors’ allegations about Hamas control – proving that the HLF defendants are innocent and should be released.

“Sentencing someone to 65 years in prison for buying an ambulance for poor people is a grave miscarriage of justice,” Meek said. “The only thing these five gentlemen are guilty of is providing charity and American goodwill in places that need it the most – and that’s not a crime.”

MLFA is committed to exhausting every potential avenue for legal relief and urgently needs your financial contributions to continue this important work. Please donate online at https://www.mlfa.org/donate.

About MLFA

Muslim Legal Fund of America is a national charity that funds legal work and programs to defend Muslims against injustice in American courtrooms, prisons and communities. Established in 2001, MLFA has defending freedom of speech, association, and religion as well as the right to a fair trial and other constitutional rights. To learn more about MLFA, visit https://www.mlfa.org.

Elmezain Judgment by Muslim Legal Fund of America on Scribd