Washington, DC - The U.S. Supreme Court entered an order declining the appeal of the Holy Land Five, Oct. 29. This rejection comes with no explanation. The judicial appeal process ends here, but the struggle to free the Holy Land Five continues.
In anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, there was a Holy Land Five national day of action on Oct. 25. Solidarity protests involving hundreds raised awareness in Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Tampa, Gainesville, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Albany and Dallas. New York City saw 75 people picket and conduct a successful press conference.
In New York City today, Noor Elashi is dealing with her own personal storm. Noor Elashi’s father, Ghassan Elashi, is one of the imprisoned Holy Land Five. She was hopeful the Supreme Court would at least consider her father’s case. Noor Elashi expressed, “We now know that the courts will not even consider justice. We need to be more determined than ever to move forward and organize people to demand the Holy Land Five’s freedom.”
Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression explains, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to look at these issues is an abomination. By not considering an appeal, the Court shows how highly political and unfair the U.S. judicial system is, from top to bottom. People throughout the Middle East understand the Holy Land Five are being punished for giving humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Well Americans can see it too. Just as we organized a massive anti-war movement against the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, and continue to call for U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, we will organize a movement to win justice for the Holy Land Five. We are organizing to end anti-Arab racism and anti-Muslim bigotry. We raise our voices to say, ‘Free the Holy Land Five!’”
Ghassan Elashi was a director of the largest Muslim charity in the country. The Holy Land Foundation raised funds and provided food, medical care, shelter and education to countless people in need, both in Palestine and the U.S. Instead of being honored for their humanitarianism by the U.S. government, the Holy Land Five were charged under the Bush administration with ‘material support for terrorism.’ Their first trial in Dallas, Texas ended in a hung jury. Jurors were not convinced of links between the health clinics and schools that received donations on the one hand, and the Palestinian Hamas movement that the U.S. government now opposes and criminalizes.
The U.S. government, not satisfied with the hung jury from the first Holy Land Five trial, brought in Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas to conduct the second trial. Jonas won convictions by using secret witnesses never identified to the defense, hearsay evidence and a shock video showing protesters in Palestine burning an American flag. This prejudiced the jurors. The Holy Land Five are imprisoned with sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years. Held in Communication Management Units, which are specially designated punishment prisons for Muslims and Arab-Americans, the conditions violate the prisoners’ human rights.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas is now in Chicago conducting the ongoing investigation of 23 Midwest anti-war and international solidarity activists, including Hatem Abudayyeh. Jonas is a pro-Israel ideologue, politically motivated and willing to trample on people’s rights.