By JOSH GERSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun | July 11, 2008
Federal prosecutors are stridently rejecting claims that two prominent Muslim organizations were unfairly named as unindicted co-conspirators in the prosecution of a Texas-based charity accused of acting as a front group for Hamas.
In a filing yesterday in federal court in Dallas, prosecutors said the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust suffered no lasting harm by being included on the co-conspirator list prosecutors filed prior to the trial last year of the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officers because evidence supporting the claim became public just weeks later.
“During last year’s trial, numerous exhibits were entered into evidence establishing both ISNA’s and NAIT’s intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, and the defendants in this case,” the prosecutors wrote. “They were intimately connected with the HLF and its assigned task of providing financial support to HAMAS. … That ISNA and NAIT appeared in these documents and share a common history with these defendants is a reflection of the evidence, not any attempt to ‘disparage’ or ‘vilify.'”
The unrepentant tone of the government’s filing was surprising in light of e-mails ISNA and NAIT filed with the court recently indicating that the lead prosecutor on the case, James Jacks, told lawyers for the groups last year that he was considering filing a pleading to clarify that the groups were identified solely because of evidentiary rules and were not being accused of having any criminal intent.
Notably absent from the government’s filing was any response to the groups’ claims in a court motion that the public filing violated Justice Department regulations that discourage naming co-conspirators in indictments and other court papers.
Justice Department officials have declined to comment on the issue, citing a gag order in place in the Holy Land case.
The trial ended last October with acquittals for three defendants on some or all charges and jurors unable to reach a verdict for two other defendants. A retrial is set for September.
Another group named as a co-conspirator, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a motion with the court last year asking it to strike the list. The motion is still pending.