Georgia man pleads guilty to aiding Hamas; case, from charges to plea, handled in secret

Friday, October 13th 2006, 11:16 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ A Georgia resident pleaded guilty to providing material support to the militant group Hamas in a case in which the agreement, charges and even the plea hearing were handled in secret.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday that the charges and plea agreement involving Mohamed Shorbagi were filed Aug. 28 in federal court in Atlanta but were sealed until Friday.

Shorbagi, 42, agreed to a maximum 15 years in prison, prosecutors said. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3.

According to prosecutors, between 1997 and 2001, Shorbagi provided financial support to Hamas, a group designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization. He also was accused of conspiring with unnamed others to provide material support to Hamas.

The donations were through Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, prosecutors said.

They said Shorbagi was a Georgia representative of Holy Land Foundation and knew money provided to the foundation was actually funneled to Hamas.

He had attended Holy Land Foundation meetings at which high-level Hamas officials made presentations condemning Israel and hosted high-level Hamas officials at the Rome, Ga., mosque at which he served as Imam, prosecutors said.

Shorbagi's attorney, Michael Trost, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. Documents released by prosecutors say Shorbagi lives in the Rome, Ga., area, but do not address his citizenship status.

Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was shut down in 2001 after the government accused it of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas. Several people connected to the group were charged.

Hamas gained control of the Palestinian Authority after winning elections in January. Israel and Western donors have cut hundreds of millions of dollars in transfers to the authority, demanding that Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Hamas has rejected the demands.