Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Counterterrorism Blog: An Unexpected Guest

Counterterrorism Blog: An Unexpected Guest

An Unexpected Guest
By The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT)

A visitor stopped by the Gaza office of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) in December 1999. It was Dallas Morning News reporter Steve McGonigle, who was reporting about alleged links between the Richardson, Tex.-based charity and Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. government four years earlier.

McGonigle testified about that trip on Monday in the material support trial of the HLF and five of its officials. HLF officials did not know he was coming to Gaza, McGonigle said, and telephone calls between HLF officials in Gaza and Texas that prosecutors played seem to confirm that. McGonigle didn’t realize it, but his unannounced visit created a bit of a stir.

McGonigle wanted to meet families helped by HLF charities. The men on the phone calls, including HLF Chief Executive Shukri Abu Bakr, agreed not to take him to families of prisoners or martyrs.

McGonigle had already interviewed two Hamas founders, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Mahmud al-Zahar, who told McGonigle they knew nothing about HLF. “I was skeptical of what [Yassin] was telling me,” he testified.

Earlier, an outburst from defendant Ghassan Elashi triggered a warning from U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish. Elashi began yelling loudly just after the court recessed for a morning break.

Read the full post here.

Pay close attention to this trial.