It was those dealings that would draw the government’s attention. “The United States government used the concept of guilt by association,” Bayan said. “There were some financial transactions between me and [Hamas political bureau deputy chairman] Mousa Abu Marzouk’s wife, who happened to be my cousin. The government didn’t like this, and indicted us mainly because of this relationship.” The “core issues,” he added, related to the Holy Land Foundation and also Abu Marzouk.
Abu Marzouk’s status as a “specially designated terrorist” allows the US government to criminalize his business transactions, personal property and even family relationships, without ever charging him with a crime or putting him on trial. It detained Abu Marzouk for 22 months after his designation, before releasing him without charges and deporting him to Jordan in 1997.
The Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Islamic charity in the United States, was shut down with an executive order from the Bush administration in December 2001. Ghassan Elashi and four other men associated with the foundation were arrested and, as The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this year, were “subjected to two extraordinary trials that, amongst other court precedents, relied on testimony from an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent. The men were accused of providing material support to Hamas, a Palestinian political party declared a terrorist organization by the US State Department, by funding Islamic charitable committees in Palestine through the Holy Land Foundation.”
Though they were not accused of committing or financing any violent acts, the five are serving out decades-long prison sentences for supporting charities that the State Department agency USAID continued to fund long after the Holy Land Foundation men were indicted. The Holy Land Foundation case is part of a pattern of the US government criminalizing Palestine advocacy and charity work while it funds the Israeli occupation and sheilds the state from accountability.