Take action to #FreeTheHLF5 with the action items below. This list is not exhaustive and we encourage you to come up with creative ideas to mobilize in defense of the HLF5 and in support of Palestinian prisoners:
- If you represent an organization, sign onto the call to join the campaign to #FreeTheHLF5
- Donate or host a fundraiser to support the Coalition for Civil Freedoms, a critical organization who has been supporting the Holy Land 5, their families, and many other political prisoners throughout the United States for decades
- Organize an event, screening, or rally to defend the Holy Land 5 and all political prisoners. Send us the details and we’ll share it.
- Write to Shukri, Ghassan and Mufid using the instructions and addresses listed at the bottom of this page
- Take pictures with the posters available above and include the hashtag #FreeTheHLF5
- Share our post on instagram and this campaign page on social media with your communities
The Campaign to Free the Holy Land Foundation 5
We are building the campaign in collaboration with the following partner organizations. If you want to collaborate with us on future events or resources, fill out this form.
- Within Our Lifetime | United for Palestine (WOL)
- Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF)
- Samidoun Palestinian Political Prisoner Solidarity Network
- US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)
- Masar Badil: Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement
- National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP)
- Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM)
- International Association of Democratic Lawyers
- Good Shepard Collective
- Canadian BDS Coalition
- Palestinian Feminist Collective
- International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS) US Chapter
- Anakbayan USA
- Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP)
- International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)
- CUNY Law Students for Justice in Palestine
- UT Dallas Students for Justice in Palestine
- Alkarama (Palestinian Women’s Movement)
- Brooklyn for Peace
- Univeristy of Houston Students for Justice in Palestine
- Collectif Palestine Vaincra
- Samidoun Nederland
- Campaign to Free Ahmed Sa’adat
- Black Alliance for Peace Solidarity Network
- Liga Argentina por los Derechos Humanos
- New York Boricua Resistance
- Human Rights for Hall (HR4All) Saskatchewan
- International Action Center (IAC)
- New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP)
- Oakville Palestinian Rights Association
- Palestine House
- Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine
- Students United for Palestinian Equality and Return (SUPER) at the University of Washington
- Committee to Stop FBI Repression
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO)
- Nevadans for Palestinian Liberation
- Students for Justice in Palestine Amsterdam
- The Palestine Solidarity Group at Mt. Holyoke College
- Freedom Archives
- MN Anti-War Committee
- Justice for Palestinians Calgary
- Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
- Healing Our Homeland
- Women in Black Vienna
- Socialist Action NYC
- The Peoples Media NYC
- Students for Yemen UMD
- For the Binat
- Claremont SJP
- Palestine Speaks – Palästina Spricht
- New York Community Action Project
- Hampton Roads for Palestine
- North NJ DSA BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group
- Greater Toronto 4 BDS
- Handala Coalition of Michigan
- CUNY Law Jewish Law Students Association
- Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine
- Palestine Solidarity Alliance – Hunter College
- University of Maryland Students for Justice in Palestine
Who Are The Holy Land 5?
The Holy Land 5 are five Palestinian men who were active leaders in the Holy Land Foundation. The Foundation was based in Texas and was once the largest Islamic charity in the U.S. before it was targeted by the Bush administration and zionist forces as part of the racist “War on Terror” and shut down in December 2001, leading to the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five Palestinian men. Three of them, Mufid Abdulqader, Ghassan Elashi, and Shukri Abu Baker remain imprisoned today. The two others, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammed El-Mezain, sentenced to 15 years each, were released in 2020 and 2022 respectively.
The Origins of the Prosecution
All the way back in 1993, the zionist Anti-Defamation League published a report claiming that the Holy Land Foundation was funding the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). At the time, the Movement was not listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States. Nevertheless, so-called ‘progressive’ politicians like Chuck Schumer and Elliot Spitzer took up the charge led by the ADL and the American Jewish Congress, and lobbied the federal government to investigate and prosecute the Foundation and its leaders. The FBI, taking its cues from the zionist institutions, began surveillance against the Foundation as early as 1993, installing surveillance devices to secretly listen in on a meeting of Holy Land Foundation members and other Palestinians in Philadelphia who had met to discuss zionist atrocities during the First Intifada in 1993.
The Context: Empire, Oslo & the War on Terror
Years prior to the events of 9/11 and the formal beginning of the War on Terror, U.S. imperialism devised a new strategy to strangle national liberation movements through the passage of Material Support for Terrorism laws that prohibited the funding and support of organizations and individuals proscribed by the state.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton, acting under pressure from zionist organizations, issued Executive Order 12,947, seeking to criminalize and repress those who engaged politically with the Palestinian and Arab resistance movement. From the government’s perspective, they aimed to cut off the flow of funds from the United States to all organizations who threatened to disrupt the “Middle East Peace Process” or, what people of conscience refer to as the Oslo surrender plan. Not for the first time, any engagement with Palestinian political parties who rejected Oslo was branded as terrorist activity, with a litany of financial, criminal, immigration, and social consequences following such a designation.
This was followed by Clinton’s passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The Act published a list of organizations with whom no one in America could engage with, financially or otherwise, without risk of being charged and convicted of material support for terrorism. This Act was passed after a string of resistance operations carried out by the Islamic Resistance Movement, and lobbied for by organizations like the Anti Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Taking notes from the United States, the allies of the zionist project like Canada, the European Union, and Britain quickly published their own lists to punish Palestinian political activity in those countries.
The first target of this scheme was the Palestinian resistance movement. Palestinian and Arab political parties struggling against the Oslo surrender agreement made up the largest category of organizations added to the list.
Of these organizations, none have been able to successfully challenge the terrorist designation in U.S. Courts. The addition and removal of these groups continue to be solely at the discretion of the U.S. government. Using secret evidence and authoritarian legal theories, the U.S. Empire has thwarted all attempts for organizations and individuals to be afforded a meaningful chance to confront their accusers and prove that they are not, in fact, terrorists.
The practical effect of these designations is the strangulation of Palestinian political life in the United States. With notable exceptions like the LA 8, until the Oslo process began, Palestinians could meaningfully engage with Palestinian political forces back home without the threat of spending decades in federal prison hanging over their heads. Palestinians could raise money for, talk to, and build support for armed and unarmed Palestinian organizations, just as Irish-Americans did in the past for the Irish Republican Army, or how Ukranians today can fundraise millions of dollars to send automatic weapons and armored vehicles to Ukraine.
After the passage of the Executive Orders and the AEDPA, quite the opposite occurred. Besides clearly prohibiting any fundraising or other forms of support, the laws acted to freeze Palestinian political speech altogether. Communities who had previously been free to discuss the parties and leaders they supported were now thrown into the dark, too afraid to mention the world Palestine, much less advocate those who took up arms to defend it.
December 4, 2001
6 days before the events of September 11, 2001, InfoCom, a computer technology company owned by Ghassan Elashi, was raided by the federal government. At its peak, the company hosted over 500 Arab and Muslim websites, including the .iq domain for the country of Iraq, and sites for the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association for Palestine, Birzeit University, and others. The Federal Government claimed that its technology had ended up in Libya, and the company was secretly funding Hamas in Palestine. In the raid, federal law enforcement confiscated computers and other materials that would ostentibly lead to the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation itself.
Only a short few months later, on December 4, 2001, the federal government raided and shut down the Holy Land Foundation. The Treasury Department designated the Foundation as both a “Special Designated Terrorist” (SDT) and a “Special Designated Global Terrorist” (SDGT).
Years later, during the HLF5 trial, the government explained that in order to be classified as an SDT or an SDGT, the government need only have a reasonable belief that the entity or person is controlled by a designated organization. A reasonable belief is exactly what it sounds like: simply a belief. In contrast, in order to get convicted by the government in a normal criminal trial, the government has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. As Muslims in the United States would soon find out, the federal government’s obsession with terrorism and the coming wave of repression was anything but normal.
The Prosecution of the Holy Land 5
In July of 2004, two and a half years after the closure of the Foundation, the homes of Shukri Abu Baker, Abdulrahman Odeh, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammed El-Mezain, and Mufid Abdulqader were raided by federal law enforcement and the men were taken into custody.
The trial began halfway through 2007. Two other HLF members, Akram Mishal and Haitham Maghawri were also charged, but they were not prosecuted as they left the United States prior to the indictments being issued. Immediately, the government made use of secret evidence, anonymous witnesses, and procedural irregularities that an observer would be hard-pressed to find parallels with. Ultimately, the trial culminated in a hung jury. One of the jurors noted that the case seemed “strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence.” The jury issued not-guilty verdicts on nearly every one of the 197 charges until one of the jurors suddenly changed their mind and claimed they never agreed to those verdicts. Later, evidence came out to suggest that this juror was improperly influenced by those who sought to see the HLF5 imprisoned. Instead of accepting the not-guilty verdicts, the Judge ordered a mistrial. This did not declare their innocence, instead it said there were too many problems with the trial, but the government could try again.
The retrial began in Dallas a year later. This time, the government was determined to fill the holes that had influenced the first jury to contemplate not-guilty verdicts.
During both the first and second trials, an anonymous israeli military intelligence officer nicknamed “Major Lior” and an IOF soldier referred to as “Avi” were used as the prosecution’s star witnesses in the attempt to connect the Holy Land Foundation to Hamas. When they testified, only the HLF5’s immediate family members were allowed in the courtroom. The anonymous occupiers were led in and out before the jury was permitted to enter. The defense team was not allowed by the federal judge, Jorge Solis, to probe into Avi or Major Lior’s credentials. However, it was clear that neither occupation official had any intimate knowledge of Hamas’s internal workings, or anything at all about the Holy Land Foundation and their activities in Palestine. According to the HLF5 defense team, this use of anonymous witnesses “had no precedent in the history of the US judicial system.”
It was the only time in the history of the United States that a witness inside a courtroom was allowed to remain anonymous, so the defense couldn’t cross-examine him.”Noor Elashi, daughter of Ghassan Elashi
In fact, there was at least one other instance in which anonymous witnesses were allowed to testify in secret. That was, unsurpisingly, during the trial of the Palestinians Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar the year prior in Chicago. In that case, zionist intelligence officers were allowed to testify using pseudonyms and disguises without the defense having the opportunity to cross-examine them. Salah and Ashqar were charged, similarly to the HLF5, with charges in connection with funding Hamas. The men were acquitted of the terrorism charges, but found guilty on obstruction of justice charges.
Additionally, the trial was characterized by mistranslated interviews and articles and evidence that the government refused to share with the defense team in the name of “national security.” In normal criminal cases, who your family is has no bearing on the guilt or innocence of the accused. For the Holy Land 5, their family members alleged membership in Palestinian political parties was used by the government to argue that they too are members in that party.
In the end, the jury handed down guilty verdicts for all five men, totalling 108 charges. Shukri Abu Baker and Ghassan Elashi were given 65-year sentences each. Abdulrahman Odeh, Mohammed El-Mezain, and Mufid Abdulqader were sentenced to 15 to 20 years each.
Two of Ghassan Elashi’s brothers, Bayan and Basman Elashi, were tried and convicted seperately of charges stemming from InfoCom and the Holy Land Foundation. The brothers were arrested in 2002, spent two years in solitary confinement, and went to trial in 2004. They each received 84-month sentences, and were released from prison in 2009 before being deported to Gaza.
After the Trials
In 2020, Abdulrahman Odeh was finally released to his family in Dallas, Texas. Earlier this year, Mohammed El-Mezain was released from ICE custody and deported to Turkey.
Shukri, Ghassan, and Mufid continue to languish in federal prisons in Texas and Kentucky. While Mufid has a scheduled release date of December 12, 2025, Shukri and Ghassan will not, unless something changes, see freedom for another four decades.
We helped Palestinian orphans and needy families, giving them hope and life. We gave them hope and life, and what was the occupation giving them? It was providing them with death and destruction. And then we are turned criminals. That is irony.”Ghassan Elashi’s statement during his sentencing
Just two weeks ago, on October 30, 2022, Shukri Abu Baker, now in his 60s, suffered a near death experience in USP Beaumont Prison after a fight broke out in his cell block. Prison officials flooded the area with pepper spray, causing him to lose consciousness and fall to the ground.
November 24th 2023 marks 15 years since Shukri, Mufid, Ghassan, Abdulrahman, and Mohammed were wrongfully imprisoned in the United States. We cannot allow additional anniversaries to pass where Shukri, Mufid and Ghassan remain incarcerated.
We call on everyone involved in the struggle for Palestine to TAKE ACTION using the resources above or to brainstorm/plan your own mobilization to #FreeTheHLF5. Free Shukri, Mufid, and Ghassan and all political prisoners, here in the belly of the beast and from the River to the Sea!
Write The Holy Land 5
Please remember that any letters sent to the HLF5 are liable to be opened and read by prison staff. Avoid writing anything sensitive that could be read into by guards and prison officials. Make sure to include both their name and their register number on the envelope.
Make sure to use a plain white envelope with no sticker labels.
SHUKRI ABU BAKER 32589-177
P.O. BOX 26030
BEAUMONT, TX 77720
GHASSAN ELASHI 29687-177
P.O. BOX 3000
PINE KNOT, KY 42635
MUFID ABDULQADER 32590-177
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
P.O. BOX 9000
SEAGOVILLE, TX 75159
Notes from Shukri
Use this blank flyer to organize your own screenings of the Al Jazeera documentary linked above by editing it to include the relevant time, location, and convening organizations.