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Visas for radical Muslim clerics

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By Michelle Malkin  •  July 27, 2004 05:27 PM

The Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., and seven of its top officials have been officially indicted for providing financial and material support to the Palestinian militant group, Hamas:

The 42-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Dallas, alleges that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development provided more than $12.4 million to individuals and organizations linked to Hamas from 1995 to 2001. The U.S. government froze the charity’s assets in December 2001.

The indictment names the foundation along with its president, Shukri Abu Baker; chairman, Ghassan Elashi; executive director, Haitham Maghawri; and four others. The charges include conspiracy, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, tax evasion and money laundering.

Five of the seven defendants were arrested while two of them, Maghawri and Akram Mishal, are not in the United States and are considered to be fugitives, the attorney general said.

“To those who exploit good hearts to secretly fund violence and murder, this prosecution sends a clear message: There is no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news conference to announce charges.

Athena at Terrorism Unveiled has more background on HLF here.
More at Jewish World Review.

So, how did this “charity” set up shop in the U.S.? Four of its workers waltzed through the front door, courtesy of the religious worker visa program. Last February, I wrote about how the program was being exploited by terrorists and other Middle Eastern scam artists:

Call it the Radical Muslim Cleric Importation Plan. Under the religious worker visa (“R visa”) program, an unknown number of Middle Easterners claiming to be imams or other mosque employees have been admitted to the United States with minimal scrutiny.

According to a complaint from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York unsealed last week, Muslim religious leader Muhammed Khalil, his son Asim, and three other individuals submitted false R visa applications on behalf of more than 200 Middle Eastern aliens. Although Khalil and his cronies were nabbed after an 18-month investigation, federal authorities are mum on the whereabouts of the Middle Eastern illegal aliens who purchased fake R visas from Khalil and his colleagues.

The R visa program, created by Congress in 1990, gives visas to thousands of foreigners to fill alleged domestic shortages among ministries, convents, and other religious professionals. In 1998, some 11,000 foreigners received such visas. According to a 1999 General Accounting Office report, federal investigators have discovered R visa fraud rings involving churches and other religious institutions based in Colombia, Fiji and Russia.

The mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, had an R visa. So did four Palestinian men who worked for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Islamic Association for Palestine — both Muslim charities that the State Department has linked to the terrorist organization Hamas.

The 1999 GAO report highlighted persistent lapses in oversight. “Neither INS nor (the) State (Department) knows the overall extent of fraud in the religious worker visa program,” the report concluded.

They still don’t know.

Update: Bill Hobbs notes HLF’s Iraqi connection.

Update II: Andrew McCarthy weighs in.

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