March 5, 2010 - PHOENIX—Today, Akram Musa Abdallah, a.k.a. Abu Saiaf, 55, of Mesa, Arizona, was sentenced to 18 months in prison as a result of his guilty plea to false statements to a government agency, in federal district court in Phoenix. In sentencing Abdallah, U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake applied an enhancement because the offense related to international terrorism. This is the first time in the District of Arizona that the terrorism enhancement has been applied for this offense.
Dennis K. Burke, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, stated, “This sentence should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly lies during a terrorism investigation. It is important that the public cooperate in investigations involving national security for the safety and security of all people in the United States, and that in those investigations members of the public are truthful and complete in their statements to law enforcement.”
In January 2007, Akram Musa Abdallah knowingly made material false statements when he was being interviewed by FBI agents in connection with the federal investigation and prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief & Development (HLF) and its officers. At the time of the interviews, Abdallah knew the HLF was a Specially Designated Terrorist Organization. Abdallah also knew that the HLF and its officers were pending trial in the Northern District of Texas for crimes which included providing material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization.
During interviews with the FBI, Abdallah denied that he was involved in fund raising activities for the HLF. In fact, between approximately 1994 and 1997, Abdallah was involved in numerous fund raising activities, including collecting donations and organizing, facilitating and coordinating fund raising events on behalf of the HLF in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Nathan T. Gray, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Division stated, “The FBI is committed to protecting the American public as it relates to terrorist activity. Today's sentencing exemplifies the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force's (JTTF) resolve to pursue those who choose not to acknowledge their involvement with fund raising for a known terrorist group. The FBI, through its JTTF, will continue its partnership with the United States Attorney's Office in investigating and prosecuting those who support international terrorism.”
From its inception, HLF existed to support Hamas. Before HLF was designed as a Specially Designated Terrorist Organization by the Treasury Department and shut down in December 2001, it was the largest U.S. Muslim charity, based in Richardson, Texas. The “material support statute,” as it is commonly referred to, recognizes that money is fungible, and that money in the hands of a terrorist organization—even if for so called charitable purposes—supports that organization’s overall terrorist objectives.
On December 4, 2001, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief & Development (HLF) was designated by the President of the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organization, pursuant to Executive Order 13224, and as a Specially Designated Terrorist Organization under Executive Order 12947. The HLF was shut down as a result of the designation and its assets were frozen. In July 2004, the HLF and seven of its principals were indicted on a variety of charges stemming from its financial support of Hamas.
The government presented evidence in the HLF trial that, as the U.S. began to scrutinize individuals and entities in the U.S. who were raising funds for terrorist groups in the mid-1990s, the HLF intentionally hid its financial support for Hamas behind the guise of charitable donations. Since 1995, when it first became illegal to provide financial support to Hamas, HLF provided approximately $12.4 million in support to Hamas and its goal of creating an Islamic Palestinian state by eliminating the State of Israel through violent jihad.
The evidence at trial demonstrated that the HLF defendants provided financial support to the families of Hamas suicide bombers, detainees, and activists knowing and intending that such assistance would support the Hamas terrorist organization. In November 2008, after a two month trial, the HLF and all its officers were found guilty of the respective charges. As a result, on May 27, 2009, they were sentenced to prison terms ranging between 15 and 65 years.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution was handled by David A. Pimsner, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix and Barry Jonas, Trial Attorney, Counter Terrorism Section, Department of Justice.