Later today, a young Muslim activist by the name of Noor Elashi and the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, will unite in Lower Manhattan to address a crowd of supporters on behalf of “The Holy Land Five.”
The rally is a display of solidarity as the Supreme Court decides whether they will hear the group’s appeal following a 2008 conviction for alleged crimes under the Material Support to Terrorists statute.
In many ways, the anticipation of the October 26 decision by the Court is a win or go home affair.
If the Supreme Court chooses to remain idle on the case, only a presidential pardon would free the defendants.
The story begins in late 2001. Three months following the September 11 Attacks, President George W. Bush ordered that the Holy Land Foundation — the largest Muslim charity in the country — be shut down for its alleged connections to the Hamas, a terrorist group in America’s book since 1995.
Noor’s father, the imprisoned Ghassan Elashi, was the leader of the HLF, who donated funds to Gaza’s schools and hospitals through a Zakat committee that the U.S. asserts is affiliated with Hamas.
After a number of federal raids, the HLF were gathered and convicted of conspiracy charges following two separate trials. Their sentences ranged from 15 years in prison to 65 years in the case of Ghassan Elashi, who is serving out his sentence in a controversial federal prison in Marion, Illinois.
The demographics of the prison — which is 79 percent Muslim — have led National Public Radio to label it “Guantanamo North.”
Civil rights groups have been up in arms about the government’s prosecution of the HLF.
In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union asserted that in going after the HLF, the U.S. government has “…violated the fundamental rights of American Muslim Charities and has chilled American Muslims’ charitable giving in accordance with their faith, seriously undermining American values of due process and commitment to First Amendment freedoms.”
The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has called the convictions a “travesty.”
The defense, with the aid of a former U.S. diplomat, has highlighted that the U.S. Agency for International Development has donated $47,000 to the same exact Zakat committee — a glaring double standard. Whether the Supreme Court will hear out the HLF defense is another story. We’ll find out tomorrow.