Petitioning President Barack Obama

Free Noor’s Father and the Other Holy Land Foundation Charity Workers

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“Come, hear Noor tell what happened to her father!” my friend exclaimed.

The incidents referred to took place several years earlier, but her wounds, and those of her friends and family, were still fresh when I first heard Noor’s story in 2010. Ghassan Elashi, Noor’s father, helped make the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) America’s largest Muslim charity. HLF raised and donated many millions of dollars to the victims of national and man-made disasters in America and throughout the world. HLF also provided humanitarian aid to the destitute people of Gaza.

But the anti-Muslim hysteria following 9/11 and the launching of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” swept many immigrants and naturalized citizens into prison. Ghassan and his colleagues were charged with material support for terrorism in 2004, on the claim, without evidence, that some of the funds they raised went to charities that were associated with Hamas. The men first went on trial in 2007.

During the trial, prosecutors admitted that all the money went to charitable aid. Moreover, other relief organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even the US Agency for International Development, gave money to some of these same Gaza charities.

In the first trial prosecutors failed to convict on any of the 197 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial. But the government was determined to produce convicted terrorists. On retrial in 2008, three exhibits that had been previously excluded as hearsay were admitted into evidence. In part by relying on secret testimony that the defense was not allowed to examine, convictions were obtained. The 65-year sentence that 54-year-old Ghassan Elashi was given amounted to a life in prison for providing medical, educational and humanitarian aid to his people. In 2012 the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeals.

After I met Noor Elashi and heard about her father’s ordeal, I set about to learn as much as possible about the HLF trials. I read articles, spoke to lawyers, talked to former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and to Ghassan’s family, and corresponded with Ghassan, himself, in prison. The HLF retrial and sentencing represent a terrible miscarriage of justice.

All this happened before President Obama took office, but he is the only one who can help now, before his term ends on January 20th. While we can’t give back the years Ghassan and his co-workers have already lost, we can ask President Obama to restore their freedoms now, by providing clemency.

Please sign this petition asking President Obama to commute the sentences of Noor’s father and other HLF workers to time already served.

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