- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

The Holy Land Foundation trial wrapped up months ahead of schedule but a federal judge has yet to rule on whether the Council on American-Islamic Relations will remain an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist-funding case.

The group known as CAIR asked U.S. District Court Chief Judge A. Joe Fish in a “friend of the court” brief last month to remove it from the listing, saying it caused a decline in membership and fundraising.

“The public naming of CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator has impeded its ability to collect donations as possible donors either do not want to give to them because they think they are a ‘terrorist’ organization or are too scared to give to them because of the possible legal ramifications of donating money to a ‘terrorist’ organization,” CAIR said in the brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office last week argued that the court should deny the request, stating its purpose is “not to assist the court as is required of a ‘friend of the court’ brief, but rather to promote its own interests and the interests of other non-parties.”

CAIR filed the brief “in an effort to combat the negative press it allegedly incurred by being identified as a participant in a network of U.S.-based organizations affiliated with the designated foreign terrorist organization, Hamas.”

“The court has entered into evidence a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking CAIR and its founders to the [Holy Land Foundation (HLF)] and its principals …,” the government stated.

The prosecution presented its case over a six-week period and the defense rested its case Tuesday after one week. The trial was expected to last six months. Closing arguments are set for Monday and Judge Fish is expected to rule on the motion before the final jury verdict.

The request filed by CAIR cites an article by The Washington Times as evidence of the group’s decline in membership numbers. The June 12 article, based on Internal Revenue Service documents and CAIR’s 2006 annual report, shows the group’s membership declined more than 90 percent from 2001 through 2006, from 29,000 to fewer than 1,700.

The Times article did not review membership numbers after the group was named as a co-conspirator earlier this summer.

“As support for its alleged injury-in-fact, CAIR provided this court with data solely from a time period prior to the government”s submission of its trial brief, a period when the alleged improper disclosure could not have affected such membership,” the federal government stated in its response, citing The Times.

“Ironically, the very same article, upon which it now relies, was publicly discredited by CAIR executive director, Nihad Awad, who claimed the article was ‘false and misleading,’ ” the government stated.

“All of the harms alleged by CAIR in its memorandum to this Court pertain to its decreasing membership and donations resulting from CAIR”s negative reputation within the United States prior to being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in this prosecution,” the government stated.

HLF and its officers face 42 counts of conspiracy, providing support to terrorists, money laundering and income-tax evasion. Prior to the trial on May 29 the Justice Department named more than 300 unindicted co-conspirators, including CAIR.

CAIR argues the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department are part of a “trend of the demonization of all things Muslim” by making the list public.

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