1. US Attorney General John Ashcroft and others begin news conference
2. SOUNDBITE: (English) John Ashcroft, US Attorney General :
“Today a US-based charity that claims to do good works is charged with funding the works of evil. About two and a half years ago, President Bush announced the terrorist designation of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. This designation was based on the foundation’s long-standing association with Hamas, a notorious terrorist organisation that engages in violent attacks to intimidate and coerce the government of Israel and its civilian population.”
3. Reporters and cameramen
4. SOUNDBITE: (English) John Ashcroft, US Attorney General
“To those who exploit good hearts to fund secretly violence and murder, this prosecution sends a clear message. There is no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks. The United States will ensure that both terrorists and their financiers meet the same certain justice.”
5. Pan from media to Ashcroft
6. SOUNDBITE: (English) John Ashcroft, US Attorney General
“Now, this prosecution would have been more difficult if not impossible were it not for the tools provided by the USA Patriot Act. After that law’s passage, much of the information that had been gathered together garnered by intelligence agents related to this investigation became available for use by prosecutors. Indeed, significant compelling evidence that will be used at this trial in this case was derived through court-authorised surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Prosecutors also used the Patriot Act authority which allowed the court in Dallas, which was most familiar with the case, to issue search warrants for locations outside the Dallas district.”
8. Ashcroft exits news conference
Seven officers from a major American Muslim charity were charged on Tuesday with providing millions of dollars in support to Hamas, a Palestinian extremist organisation blamed for dozens of suicide bomber attacks in Israel.
The 42-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Dallas, alleges that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development provided more than US 12.4 million dollars to people and organisations linked to Hamas from 1995 to 2001.
Hamas has denied taking any money from the charity.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of the political bureau of Hamas, told The Associated Press in Damascus, Syria that “Hamas has its own means of funding and that is not connected with any institution in the West.”
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the charges at a news conference, noting that a number of Americans have been Hamas victims.
The attorney general said the foundation gave money to the families of Hamas terrorists killed and jailed by Israel.
Federal agents raided the charity’s New Jersey office on December 4, 2001, carting away office equipment, records, furniture and other items.
The indictment names the foundation along with its president, Shukri Abu Baker; chairman, Ghassan Elashi; executive director, Haitham Maghawri; and four others.
The charges include conspiracy, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organisation, tax evasion, and money laundering.
Five of the seven defendants were arrested while two of them, Maghawri and Akram Mishal, are not in the United States and are considered to be fugitives, the attorney general said.
On Monday, the foundation filed a complaint with the inspector general of the Justice Department and asked for an investigation because it claimed the FBI fabricated its case.
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