October 22, 2007

Holy Land Trial Debacle?

The trial of Muslim fundraisers accused of channeling monies to terrorists has ended in confusion and probable mistrial. Immediately after announcing an acquittal on most charges, three jurors repudiated the verdicts, creating havoc in the courtroom:

Jurors found three former leaders of a group that was once the nation's largest Muslim charity not guilty of funneling illegal aid to terrorists, but the panel was sent back to deliberate on the other defendants after three jurors said the verdicts read in court were wrong.

Because of the confusion, the judge has not officially accepted those verdicts, which aquitted chairman Mohammed El-Mezain on all counts and two other defendants on most: Mohammed El-Mezain, the group's New Jersey representative, and Abdulrahman Odeh; and fundraiser Mufid Abdulqader. ...

When jurors came into the courtroom earlier Monday, the judge read the verdicts, but three jurors said those findings were not correct. U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish sent then back to resolve the differences.

We'll keep an eye on the story, but it looks as though the jury has some serious problems. How could the verdicts get misrepresented as unanimous when clearly they were not? Had it been one juror repudiating the verdicts, he could be written off as a nut. Three jurors indicate a more significant problem.

An acquittal in this case would be a broad setback for a criminal-justice approach to terrorist financing, assuming the HLF actually funded terrorists as alleged. The Department of Justice will have some work to do on determining where the prosecution went wrong.

UPDATE: The judge declared a mistrial after the jury tried deliberating over what they thought they had decided. They told the judge that they could not reach an agreement on what verdicts were legitimate, and so all of the disputed verdicts have been thrown out.


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Comments (22)

Posted by TomB | October 22, 2007 11:27 AM

Political correctness with the build in sympathy for criminals will eventually be the biggest challenge to the Rule of Law in our society. Also our jury system can be too easily sabotaged by even one hidden gang member, or a sympathizer. It has happen before.

Posted by Otter | October 22, 2007 12:02 PM

'An acquittal in this case would be a broad setback for a criminal-justice approach to terrorist financing,'

And criminal justice is just how the Left would like to approach terrorism. Won't it be great? Scores, hundreds, Thousands dead from future attacks, and a good chance the terrorists will get away with anyway, even if brought to trial. Leftists like terrorist-enabler Stewart will fill the courtrooms.

Posted by gregdn | October 22, 2007 12:22 PM

Get a grip Otter. Our criminal justice system has prosecuted everthing from Neo Nazis to Communist spies, and has done a pretty good job overall. To summarily suggest that it's incapable of trying guys like this is absurd.

Posted by quickjustice | October 22, 2007 12:22 PM

The Clinton Justice Department "criminal justice" approach to combating terrorism was discredited by the fallout from the 1993 World Trade Center trial, in which classified information about Bin Laden was exposed at trial, causing us to lose his trail, and by the 9/11 attacks.

Tragically, the vagaries of the jury system will continue to dog these trials. Terrorists aren't ordinary criminals. The conceit that a "criminal justice" approach works will cost lives, and huge amounts in Justice Department resources.

Posted by Richard Aubrey | October 22, 2007 12:41 PM

Do jurors literally sign something before going back into court with the verdicts?
Did the jury foreman tell the bailiff they had an agreement knowing they didn't?
Were the three less intimidated in court than in the jury room?
Was somebody asleep during deliberations?

Posted by Otter | October 22, 2007 12:50 PM

Thank you, QuickJustice, for that reminder of how things work when islam is involved. Especially with the Left (possibly) about to take the reins at the WH next fall.

Posted by jpe | October 22, 2007 12:53 PM

Isn't is possible the charity and its principals aren't guilty of anything?

Posted by Anthony (Los Angeles) | October 22, 2007 12:58 PM

It seems to me the prosecution here made the same mistake the prosecutors in the OJ Simpson trial made (well, one of several gaffes those idiots made): the presented too complicated a case to the jury and overwhelmed them with evidence, to the point that most of the jurors rejected the whole case. Juries need a simple, clear narrative, something members can use to make sense of the evidence and say "A-ha!"

Fingers crossed the judge declares a mistrial and the government gets to refile its case. HLF (and CAIR and ISNA) are nothing more than fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood, and need to be put down.

Posted by Gabriel Malor | October 22, 2007 12:59 PM

The judge has declared a mistrial (same link as above has been updated). Now we wait and see if the prosecution wants to do this all over again.

Posted by Anthony (Los Angeles) | October 22, 2007 1:00 PM


Isn't is possible the charity and its principals aren't guilty of anything?

No, not in this case.

Posted by daytrader | October 22, 2007 1:36 PM


A closer look at the evidence presented in the trial would suggest different.

Tapes, ledgers and canceled checks are pretty compelling evidence.

Not a lot of he said she said in this case.

I tend to think it's the technical minutia of the trial charges that is part of the issue and also coverage of the trial showed that this may have not been the most attentive jury in the world from what I have read.

Posted by BurfordHolly | October 22, 2007 1:44 PM

Clinton got convictions of terrorists like the "Blind Sheik" by investigating them as criminals. Bush's refusal to treat terror as a law enforcement issue has led some anti-terror trials to collapse because the government either cuts corners on routine procedures like handling evidence or treats evidence, interrogation methods, and the identity of witnesses as secret. Then they can't get convictions even in trials in the friendliest venues with GOP appointed judges. This strategy has been one of the administrations most stunning failures, and one which will dog the party for years. We've gotten used to the GOP's dislike for the Bill of Rights, but now they are making "law enforcement" a dirty word.

Posted by hunter | October 22, 2007 1:57 PM

Burfod Holly,
The bs you are pushing will go better at Kos or other blinded-by-hate sites.

Posted by BurfordHolly | October 22, 2007 2:03 PM

>The Clinton Justice Department "criminal justice"
> approach to combating terrorism was discredited
>by the fallout from the 1993 World Trade Center
> trial, in which classified information about
>Bin Laden was exposed at trial, causing us to
>lose his trail, and by the 9/11 attacks.


The "Blind Sheik" was sentenced in Oct 1995, the CIA unit created to track OBL opened in January 1996. In 1995, the FBI was chasing down Tim McVeigh, and the CIA was in a state of collapse over the Aldrich Ames spy scandal.

After Oklahoma City and the Sarin attacks in Japan, in June 1995, Clinton issued Directive 39 ("US Policy on Counterterrorism") with an emphasis on WMD and the use of rendition *to the US for trial.*

Posted by Adjoran | October 22, 2007 2:26 PM

In any case where financial transactions have been hidden, the evidence uncovering the web of deception necessarily will be complicated. Defendants who knew they were breaking laws took great care to disguise this, of course.

The problem is we all too often submit complicated cases, both civil and criminal, to juries which include a certain percentage of complete idiots.

It is this unfortunate phenomenon which allows the OJs to go free despite overwhelming proof of guilt, and the John Edwardses to collect huge judgments based on imaginary evidence.

Posted by Joseph Kempton | October 22, 2007 2:39 PM

Trying to prosecute terrorist newtworks runs into a fundmental problem; and that is the trade-off between the primary duty of the legal system which is to build and present evidence in an open enviornment to enact justice against those who have commited crimes versus the primary duty of the inteligence and security community which is to collect and conceal information in order to track, predict and stop crimes from being committed.

If we formally declare war against specific terrorist organizations I beleive it would be legal to prosecaute all such incidents thru the military. Until then these groups will be treated as if they were the mafia.

Posted by quickjustice | October 22, 2007 2:41 PM

LOL, Burford! You don't know that the federal prosecutor in Manhattan introduced transcripts of satellite phone conversations between Bin Laden and Al Qaeda operatives as evidence against the blind sheik and other operatives? Those transcripts exposed our ability to intercept those conversations, and Bin Laden promptly discontinued use of his satellite phone, causing us to lose his trail.

In other words, exposing our intelligence intercepts in criminal court was a major factor in permitting Bin Laden to elude us for years as he was planning the 9/11 attacks. I lost friends and neighbors in those attacks. The Clinton "criminal justice" strategy against terrorism failed abysmally.

What part of this don't you understand?

Posted by Kevin R.C. 'Hognose' O'Brien | October 22, 2007 2:49 PM

Lawfare is ineffective and only benefits the terrorists, their financiers, their lawyers ("the check from Saudi just cleared! There's another one coming for smuggling the fatwa out..."), and their enemy-of-my-enemy fifth column of support (at the risk of repeating myself).

These guys are not the least bit scared of a big bad indictment. Due to the prejudices and character of attorneys the legal system is much more vigorous when turned on our troops than it is when turned on our enemies.

And we're looking at a probable restoration of Clintonism, in which Osama would by given a traffic ticket... which he could get fixed by slipping some money to the usual suspects.

Posted by BurfordHolly | October 22, 2007 2:57 PM

We were monitoring his satellite phones in 1998 in Afghanistan and in 2001 at Tora Bora. He knew satellite phones were not secure, and he kept using them and we kept monitoring them. We would try to to track or target him using the signal, and he would give the phones to couriers to use them as an electronic decoys. I do not know if it came up at the Blind Shiek's trial, but......


File the Bin Laden Phone Leak Under 'Urban Myths'

President Bush asserted this week that the news media published a U.S. government leak in 1998 about Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, alerting the al Qaeda leader to government monitoring and prompting him to abandon the device.

The story of the vicious leak that destroyed a valuable intelligence operation was first reported by a best-selling book, validated by the Sept. 11 commission and then repeated by the president.

But it appears to be an urban myth.

The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.

Causal effects are hard to prove, but other factors could have persuaded bin Laden to turn off his satellite phone in August 1998. A day earlier, the United States had fired dozens of cruise missiles at his training camps, missing him by hours.

Posted by quickjustice | October 22, 2007 2:58 PM

Correction: It was the embassy bombings indictment, not the World Trade Center trial.

Here's the link:


"Between 1996 and 1998, when the embassy was bombed, the FBI found that Osama bin Laden and his staff had spent nearly 40 hours making satellite phone calls from the mountains of Afghanistan. The calls, which can be sent and received from a special phone the size of a laptop computer, were relayed via a commercial satellite to sympathisers in the west.

Even now, as US forces move in for the kill, bin Laden's satellite phone has not been cut off. But calls to the terrorist leader are going unanswered. His international phone number - 00873 682505331 - was disclosed during a trial, held in New York earlier this year. Caller to his once-active satellite link now hear only a recorded messages saying he is "not logged on".

According to US prosecutors, the phone most frequently called by satellite was a mobile phone located in London. This single phone was used by " bin Laden and the other co-conspirators to carry out their conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals", US Attorney Kenneth Karas told the jury.

"[It] gives you a window into how it is that Al Qaeda [the name of bin Laden's international network] operates," he added. Calls were so frequent were so frequent that the phone, rented from 1-2-1, was dubbed the "Jihad phone".

But, like all the other European phones and lines mentioned in the New York trial, the "Jihad phone" didn't use encryption to prevent the communications from being intercepted by the police or security agencies. It couldn't. Yet investigators and surveillance centres apparently knew nothing of what was going on at the time, and were unable to piece together the links being run by the terror group.

Throughout the period, US intelligence did track bin Laden's satphone. They heard him talking to the Taliban about heroin exports, and even monitored him chatting to his mother. Tracking data based on the position of his phone was used in 1998, when President Clinton authorised the launch of cruise missiles intended to kill him. But he wasn't logged on, and survived. And he never logged on again."

Posted by Burford Holly | October 22, 2007 3:15 PM


Your link says use of OBL's phones was disclosed in 2001 (before Tora Bora).

Posted by jpe | October 22, 2007 6:17 PM

Tapes, ledgers and canceled checks are pretty compelling evidence.

Tapes of what? That's kind of important.

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