A leading House Republican says senior Obama administration Justice Department officials overruled U.S. prosecutors and FBI agents who sought to bring new charges against one of the country’s leading Muslim organizations.
Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, in a letter sent Monday asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to answer several questions about the 2008 terrorism-financing prosecution of the Texas-based charity known as the Holy Land Foundation.
Mr. King’s letter followed a recent report on the Internet news portal Pajamas Media that quoted unidentified Justice officials as saying they were overruled in pursuing the prosecution of the Holy Land case.
“I have been reliably informed that the decision not to seek indictments of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its co-founder Omar Ahmad; the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) was usurped by high-ranking officials at Department of Justice headquarters over the vehement and stated objections of special agents and supervisors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas, who had investigated and successfully prosecuted the Holy Land Foundation case,” Mr. King stated.
Mr. King asked the attorney general to answer several questions about why the prosecution was dropped, including whether White House officials intervened. “I believe that in order to maintain the credibility of the department, there should be full transparency into the department’s decision,” he said, requesting a response by next Monday.
The Holy Land Foundation case is significant because the prosecution disclosed a U.S. fundraising network for Hamas, the Palestinian group designated by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist entity.
The prosecution also made public hours of taped conversations and internal documents that showed leading figures in CAIR, including Executive Director Nihad Awad, attended a 1993 meeting in Philadelphia to form the Holy Land Foundation.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the department would not discuss the internal deliberations regarding prosecutions.
“As a matter of long-standing policy, other than through charging documents and other public filings, the department does not confirm or deny whether any particular individual or entity is or was the subject of an investigation, nor does the department comment on any internal investigative or prosecutorial deliberations,” he said.
Mr. Boyd, however, also said Mr. King was out of line. “The investigation, prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five of its leaders for providing material support to Hamas, and determination of whether to charge unindicted co-conspirators, were guided only by the law and the facts; any suggestion to the contrary is false and unfounded,” he said.
The new charges against the Justice Department come as Mr. King is facing some political pressure for hearings he chaired last month on radicalization inside the U.S. Muslim community. CAIR in particular said the hearings were an assault on the U.S. Muslim community.
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