- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

DALLAS, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Five Dallas-area brothers charged with laundering money for a senior leader of the militant group Hamas pleaded innocent in federal court Friday.

U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer scheduled an Oct. 6 trial for Basman, Bayan, Hazim, Ihsan and Ghassan Elashi. They all remain in custody except Ghassan, who must wear an electronic monitor and restrict his movements.

The Elashi brothers allegedly had financial dealings with Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook, and his wife, who were also named in a 33-count indictment returned last month. The Marzooks have not been arrested and are believed to be in Syria.

Defense attorney Michael Gibson told reporters outside the courtroom that the men were being prosecuted because of their political beliefs.

"These men are good men who did not commit criminal acts but were charged because of circumstances related to where they were born, their political beliefs and feelings, and those are not crimes in America, thank God," he said.

Ghassan Elashi, a U.S. citizen, is vice president of Richardson, Texas-based InfoCom Corp., which was also named in the federal indictment. He is also chairman of the board of Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a charity closed by the federal government in 2001 because it was an alleged front for Hamas.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment against the seven defendants and InfoCom. Marzook was designated as a terrorist seven years ago, which made it illegal for anyone in the United States to deal with him.

All the defendants face charges of illegal exports, making false statements on export declarations, dealing in the property of a designated terrorist, conspiracy and money laundering. The Elashi brothers also face charges of illegally selling computers and computer parts to Libya and Syria, both designated state sponsors of terrorism.

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