No Separate Justice,
The human rights and civil rights abuses taking place in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay have, rightly, been placed under a spotlight by people of conscience around the world. Some believe that if only those detained at Guantanamo could be transferred to American soil, to be held and tried as civilians, the abuses would end and justice would be done.
Yet many of the same abuses can be found in the hundreds of “war on terror” cases that have been processed through courtrooms and federal prisons across the United States since 9/11. These abuses–which include inhumane conditions of confinement both pre- and post-trial; secret evidence; intrusive surveillance; vague material support charges; FBI-created plots brought into communities through paid informants; and the criminalization of Islamic speech and association–remain largely invisible.
The mission of the No Separate Justice campaign is to place these abuses, taking place in prisons and courtrooms across the United States, firmly on the agendas of human and civil right organizations, the media, and the U.S. public through education and activism that draws directly upon the experiences and voices of those most directly affected.
This month’s vigil focused on the HOLY LAND FIVE, who are 5 Palestine activists; Ghassan Elashi, co-founder and board chairman; Shukri Abu-Baker, president and CEO; Mohammad El-Mezain, co-founder and California HLF office representative; Mufid Abdulqader, volunteer fundraiser and Abdulrahman Odeh, New Jersey office HLF representative.
The Holy Land Foundation was among several charities that the Bush administration shut down soon after 9/11. These include: Benevolence International Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, Kind Hearts USA and Islamic American Relief Agency. In 2009, the ACLU released a report titled “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity,” addressing this issue.
The HLF case was authorized by the Patriot Act, which expanded a provision in the “material support” law to include those who provide “assistance.” This made it illegal to send charity to the U.S. Treasury Department lists of designated terrorists. (Note: The HLF was never found guilty of giving charity to a designated terrorist organization; rather, they were convicted of conspiring to give charity to zakat committees that prosecutors argued were fronts for Hamas). What the “material support” statue has essentially done is undermine bona fide humanitarian efforts, and thus, cause an economic chokehold on Occupied Palestine. According to the ACLU, the law is “in desperate need of re-evaluation and reform.” The legislation also raises serious due process concerns and violates human rights obligations and constitutional provisions that protect freedoms of religion and association. The Center for Constitutional Rights has challenged the constitutionality of this law in the Supreme Court.
- Nothing in the indictment charges the defendants of providing money to Hamas, or providing money for arms, or engaging in violence.
- Nowhere in the indictment does it allege that any of the funds the zakat committees received from the HLF were misuses or funneled to support violent acts.
- None of the zakat committees that are mentioned in the indictment are listed in any designated terrorist list by any United States agency.
- In fact, USAID—an American government agency—had continued providing funds to the same zakat committees listed in the indictment well beyond the time that Bush shut down the HLF.
Susie Day reads about the HL5, Was a Charity foundation that was “founded in 1989 that provided aid to people in Palestine and across the world”. That the HL5 distributed aid through Hamas, was the argument of the U.S. Gov. “That the HL5 were guilty of providing material support to a terrorist group even though the same charity commissions were also used by the UN and the Red Cross to distribute aid”.
5 former employees of HL5 are currently serving between 15 & 65 years in prison!
Omar Shakir from the Center for Constitutional Rights spoke about an explosive joint report that came out in September on the increasing widespread suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy in the U.S. “We have 5 individuals who were part of an organization doing nothing more than raising money and raising awareness about a really serious human rights issue which is the on going subjugation of the Palestinian people”.
Nerdeen Kiswani from NYC Student’s for Justice in Palestine said, “we’ve all seen the article that came out recently that had people, converts, going into MSA, Muslims Student’s Assoc. spaces to entrap people. This is the environment that we deal with”. Nerdeen went on, “We’re on our campus demanding human rights, demanding freedom for our people and we have to fear that”. “People are afraid, I’ve organized on campuses where students come up to me and tell my I whole-heartedly believe in the cause I want to join you, but I know that if I do so it’s like shooting myself in the foot. I won’t have a career, I won’t have a future. I can go to prison simply for coming out and saying that I am against Zionism. I know that if I don’t say anything that it’s only going to get worse. If I can’t stand up for myself, if I can’t stand up for my people who will? We have to continue the fight against this, I know it’s scary, I know it’s sad and I know it’s depressing. The Louder our voices are the harder it will be for them to down it out”.
Noor Elashi, daughter of Ghassan Elashi Co-Founder and board of the HL5 currently serving a 65 year sentence for conspiracy to send material support in the form of humanitarian aid to charities in the West Bank and Gaza that prosecutors claimed were associated with the designated terrorist organization”.
Noor began, “Nearly 7 years ago this month my father, Ghassan Elashi was convicted on terrorism charges in the vacuum of post 911 hysteria”
Noor ends with her father’s statement from the day before, “It’s been almost 14 years since the HL5 Foundation was shut down with an executive order from GWB following a years long relentless lobbying effort that was a mere extension of the apartheid system against Palestinians.”
For more see April Watters Youtube
Also see http://FreedomToGive.com