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What do you get for being a terrorist fundraiser? If you’re Emadeddin Z. Muntasser, then you grin after walking away with six months of home confinement. And if you’re, Samir Al-Monla, then you get off with eight months of home confinement.
The jury had convicted Muntasser and Al-Monla back in 2008 of conspiracy and of scheming to cover up their Islamic terrorism charity, but District Court Judge Dennis Saylor IV had thrown out the jury’s verdict. From there the case had gone to the United States Court of Appeals, which rejected Saylor’s willful disregard for the justice system and reinstated the jury’s verdict, and from there it bounced right back into Saylor’s court, where last week he gave the two men the expected slap on the wrist.
Muntasser and Al-Monla had co-founded their group, Care International, together with Abdullah Azzam. Azzam was Bin Laden’s mentor and a co-founder of Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Care International had been started up after the World Trade Center bombing as a successor to Al-Kifah, which operated under the aegis of Maktab al-Khidamat, founded by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam as a precursor to Al-Qaeda. Al-Kifah had fed money to the Mujhadeen in Afghanistan and its operatives had been closely connected to the World Trade Center Bombing. Its assets were frozen after September 11, but those of Care International were not.
Care International published its own Jihadist magazine, which carried over from the Al-Kifah days, named, “Al-Hussam” or “The Sword.” Al-Hussam’s calls for beheading unbelievers and spilling rivers of their blood were as subtle as its name and its message encouraged Muslims to either join the terrorist campaign or donate to the terrorists. Care had directly transferred money to Maktab al-Khidamat while pretending to be a charity and had distributed Jihadist materials.
Muntasser and Al-Monla had signed a written pledge of support to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an associate of Osama bin Laden, who claimed credit for rescuing Bin Laden from Tora Bora, had called for a Jihad against the United States and put bounties on the heads of American soldiers.
The pledge read, “We those who love you in the Boston office, write to you asking for direction and looking for explanation on what you see fit and appropriate for us in matters concerning serving Jihad for the sake of Allah. . . . We are prepared to abide by your commands and we are forever in the fold of obedience and military service.”
All that should have made the case against Al-Monla and Muntasser a simple affair; instead after nearly ten years of raids, investigations and trials— two terrorist fundraisers have, for all intents and purposes, gone free.
Al-Monla and Muntasser have one man to thank for their freedom. Judge Saylor, a Massachusetts Federal Judge, who did his best to set the defendants loose. Judge Saylor could have very easily added seven months to Muntasser’s sentence and made him eligible for deportation. He chose not to do that either.
During the trial, Judge Saylor had ruled off limits any references to Osama bin Laden or September 11 and instructed the jury that the case was not about terrorism or Islam. The jury nevertheless did the right thing. The judge however did not.
What should be equally disturbing is that last year, Judge Saylor was appointed to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a seven year term. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reviews classified evidence and authorizes electronic surveillance in cases that primarily involve terrorism. For the next six years, Judge Saylor will have a great deal of power in denying or authorizing investigations of Islamic terrorists with very little oversight or outside knowledge of his decisions.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke S. Chakravarty has criticized Judge Saylor’s handling of the case and warned that he was, “opening up the floodgates to creating more bin Ladens.” In rejecting Saylor’s acquittal, the United States Court of Appeals had said that, “the evidence against both defendants on the relevant charges was simply overwhelming.”
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