FBI: Muslim charity leader was at rally where speaker exhorted crowd to `kill all' Israelis
Thursday, December 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
RICHARDSON, Texas (AP) _ The leader of a large Muslim charity attended a mid-1990s event where $207,000 was raised for Hamas and the keynote speaker urged the crowd to ``finish off the Israelis; kill them all,'' according to an FBI memo.
The memo also detailed 1993 meetings between officials of the militant Palestinian group and the charity, the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, to discuss fund-raising for the families of suicide bombers.
The Treasury Department used the FBI memo as grounds to freeze Holy Land's assets and raid its offices this week. Holy Land officials denied the government's accusation that they funneled money to terrorists and promised to fight the freeze.
Several prominent American Muslim groups called on President Bush to unfreeze Holy Land's assets and said shutting down the foundation would damage America's credibility with Muslims around the world and raise the spectre of a government attack on Islam.
Working closely with Israeli intelligence, FBI investigators concluded in a 49-page report that Holy Land leaders were Hamas members and the charity was the primary U.S. fund-raising organ for the terrorist group.
The memo cited a previously disclosed $210,000 donation to Holy Land from Mousa Abu Marzook, later identified by Israeli officials as a Hamas political leader now in Syria. It said Marzook designated Holy Land as Hamas' main U.S. fund-raising arm.
The memo cites an informant who described a conference of the Muslim Arab Youth Association at a Los Angeles hotel from Dec. 30, 1994, to Jan. 2, 1995. The informant said Holy Land President Shukri Abu Baker, introduced at an earlier meeting as a Hamas offical, attended the Los Angeles session.
At the same conference, the informant said, Sheikh Muhammed Siyam, described as head of operations for the Hamas military wing, gave a keynote address.
``Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all. Exterminate them. No peace ever,'' Siyam told the crowd, according to the FBI informant.
After the speech, a Holy Land official urged the crowd to contribute money for ``the cause,'' and it was later announced that $207,000 was raised, according to the memo. The official, Mohamed El-Mezain, claimed to have raised $1.8 million in the United States for Hamas in 1994, the memo said.
Abu Baker could not be reached for comment. A Holy Land spokeswoman called the FBI charges ``totally baseless.''
The FBI report described eavesdropping on meetings in October 1993 in Philadelphia at which officials of Hamas and Holy Land discussed raising money for Hamas schools, hospitals and annuities for the families of suicide bombers.
Holy Land Chairman Ghassan Elashi, who allegedly took part in the meetings along with Abu Baker, called the report a fabrication.
``I have no idea what they're talking about. I don't think I even stepped into the building,'' he said.
Holy Land raised $13 million last year and claims to be the largest Muslim charity in the United States, funding schools and other social services for Palestinians and others in the Muslim world. FBI and Treasury Department agents raided the group's suburban Dallas headquarters on Tuesday and closed offices in Paterson, N.J., Bridgeview, Ill., and San Diego.
Elashi said Holy Land has no ties to Hamas or other terrorist groups, and he vowed Wednesday to recover funds _ said by the White House to be $5 million _ frozen by the federal government.
``This is purely political based on a foreign government that wanted to limit the rights of Muslims in America,'' Elashi said.
The American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, the Council on American Islamic Relations and other Muslim groups said the move against Holy Land could suggest an attack on Islam.
The Treasury Department has frozen the accounts of 153 groups and individuals as part of an ongoing anti-terrorism investigation, said spokeswoman Tasia Scolinas. She said the blocks on funds at Holy Land and two other groups this week were the first tied to Hamas instead of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.