- Co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development
Ghassan Elashi was a founder and Chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF). He was also a member of the founding Board of Directors of the Texas branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Dating back to the early 1990s, Elashi maintained close ties to CAIR leaders Bassam Khafagi, Siraj Wahaj, and Randall Todd "Ismail" Royer.
In December 2002, Elashi was arrested for conspiracy, money laundering, and dealing in the property of a designated terrorist. According to prosecutors, he and his two brothers (Bayan and Basman) had tried to hide Hamas official Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook's $250,000 investment in Elashi's Texas-based computer company (Infocom), and then had funneled payments to Marzook in return.
In April 2005 Elashi was convicted on all 21 federal counts against him. He was sentenced to 80 months in prison.
On July 23, 2007, Elashi and six fellow HLF leaders were charged with twelve counts of providing "material support and resources" to a foreign terrorist organization, Hamas. Additionally, they faced thirteen counts of money laundering and thirteen counts of breaching the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prohibits transactions that threaten American national security. Along with the seven named defendants, the government released a list of approximately 300 "unindicted co-conspirators" and "joint venturers."
Among the unindicted co-conspirators were groups such as Hamas, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, INFOCOM, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, the Islamic Association for Palestine, the United Association for Studies and Research, and the North American Islamic Trust. The list also included many individuals affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas. These included Omar Ahmad, Abdallah Azzam, Yousef al-Qaradawi, Mohammad Jaghlit, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Jamal Badawi, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, Ahmed Yassin, and Mousa Abu Marzook. Thirty-nine directors, employees and representatives of HLF were also named.
On October 22, 2007, after a two-month trial and nineteen days of jury deliberation, Judge A. Joe Fish declared a mistrial because the jury had been unable to deliver unanimous verdicts and had failed to convict on even a single count brought against the defendants.
When the government retried the case a year later, prosecutors made several key adjustments. Most notably, they dropped some counts against particular defendants; they called several new witnesses; and they displayed three exhibits which Israeli military officials had seized from the Palestinian Authority (PA). Those exhibits demonstrated that the PA, like the U.S. government, clearly considered HLF to be a Hamas funder; that an HLF-supported charity committee was fully controlled by Hamas; and that the defendants were well aware that whatever money they were raising in the U.S. was earmarked for Hamas.
On November 24, 2008, a jury convicted Elashi and four other former HLF officials -- Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Mohamed El-Mezain, and Abdelrahman Odeh -- of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. In May 2009, Elashi was sentenced to 65 years in prison.