Defendants on trial in terror-financing case

Dallas (AP) _ The Holy Land Foundation is charged with illegally helping finance Hamas.  The organization was the largest U.S. Muslim charity until the Federal Government shut it down in December of 2001.

Of those being charged they are accused of aiding a group that the government has designated as a terrorist organization, deasing in the property of a terrorist, conspiracy and money laundering.

Holy Land allegedly funneled more than $12 million to Hamas after 1995, when such aid became illegal. Two members of Holy Land also are accused of filing false tax returns.  All the defendants were named in a 42-count indictment in 2004, but six counts were dropped at the beginning of the trial.

Defense lawyers said Holy Land helped needy Palestinian children and families and didn't knowingly help Hamas.  Witnesses said the government's own U.S. Agency for International Development helped some of the same Palestinian charities that also got money from Holy Land.

A former U.S. Consul General to Jerusalem said he received daily CIA briefings but was never told that Hamas controlled the Palestinian charities aided by Holy Land.  The men could get life in prison if convicted of aiding a terrorist group and if jurors believe that the money contributed to deaths.

The government charges that Holy Land helped finance Hamas-backed suicide bombings and other deadly attacks in Israel.

(Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)