How Two Al-Qaeda Fundraisers Were Set Free

A slap on the wrist for two Jihadists.

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.”

But Muntasser and Al-Monla had a lot of firepower in their corner, including Susan Estrich, Dukakis’ campaign manager, former Massachusetts ACLU President Harvey Silverglate, and Kathleen Sullivan, a former dean of Stanford, and a partner at Quinn Emanuel, who had reportedly been under consideration by the Obama Administration as a Supreme Court nominee.

Estrich and Silverglate had argued that the calls to Jihad fell under free speech and freedom of religion. Al-Hussam’s bloodthirsty ravings were described by the duo as “taking positions and reporting on developments in foreign battles” and the Jihadist texts, including one by Abdullah Azzam, as, “publishing and distributing books that discuss and espouse controversial ideas about religious conflict in the contemporary world.”

“Care was set up to advance religious goals,” Estrich and Silverglate wrote. “Jihad is a religious concept; Zakat is a religious obligation; support for the Mujahideen is, according to certain interpretations of the Koran, a religious command.”

The defense of religious freedom was all the more repulsive, considering the racist turn that the case had taken at one point, when a defense lawyer badgered a prosecution witness over whether he had learned Torah.

But Sullivan, Estrich and Silverglate were not the only ones fighting the good Jihadi fight. Also stepping up to Muntasser and Al-Monla’s defense was Libya’s ambassador to the United States.

Ali Suleiman Aujali had been Gaddafi’s ambassador, before making a timely leap to the rebels. This made him a hero in the eyes of some naïve and foolish people. In 2009 however, Aujali had authored a piece in the Wall Street Journal, defending the Libyan celebrations of the return of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

After defending Meghari, Aujali’s credibility should have been particularly low. Nevertheless the ambassador penned a letter claiming that the Libyan government was closely following the case because Muntasser’s uncle, Mohammed Muntasser, had been a former prime minister of Libya, and that Care’s work had taken place when the Jihad had been a popular cause in Libya. Libyan political influence had helped set the Lockerbie bomber free, no doubt it also played its part in Muntasser’s case.

But the dominant factor in the Muntasser/Al-Monla case, as in so many others was the unwillingness of an entrenched legal system to come to grips with a new reality in which it was on the front lines of a covert war against the United States. For many lawyers and judges, freeing guilty men had been a way of making a statement about the government trespassing on their turf. That practice continued even as they were no longer dealing with drug kingpins, but with members in a secret army dedicated to mass murder and world domination.

The adversarial system is an effective way of protecting Americans in criminal cases, but it’s also an effective tool for dividing the system and exploiting those divisions to successfully pursue a war against America.

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