All through his protracted fight to gain legal residency in America, 16-year Dallas resident Ayman Sabri Ismail has held to the story that his work for the Holy Land Foundation was as a lowly computer graphics technician who knew nothing about the charity’s business.
Claiming a tenuous low-profile connection to the Richardson-based organization could only help the Jordanian stay in North Texas with his naturalized American wife and five children. Especially, since President Bush two years ago declared the charity a clandestine fundraising arm for the terrorist group Hamas, shut it down and moved to deport or charge other employees with various crimes.
But in an unusual turn of courtroom events, the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday allowed a rare public accusation to surface: that Ismail is a terrorist.
Government records obtained by CBS-11 cite evidence that Ismail was a high-ranking fundraiser for the Holy Land Foundation, not the lowly computer technician he has repeatedly claimed he was. Working as a fundraiser for the banned organization makes Ismail a terrorist under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the government has asserted in immigration records obtained by CBS-11.
A Dallas immigration judge’s ruling on a request for bond, detailing evidence gathered by the Department of Homeland Security, says Ismail accepted checks from donors, actively solicited money and was given the title “Director of Resource Development, Pledges Division.”
“Notwithstanding (Ismail’s) self-serving statements, the evidence demonstrates that respondent did solicit and receive funds for HLF within the meaning of (the Patriot Act),” according to a Dallas immigration judge’s ruling, called a bond memorandum, denying a bond hearing. “Respondent engaged in terrorist activity…
Ismail was detained earlier this month and sent to a federal holding facility in Haskell, Texas, where he could not be reached for comment. According to government records, he denied being a fundraiser for HLF even when presented with checks made out to him and donor solicitations sporting his signature and title.
“In general, the respondent argues that he did not solicit funds on behalf of HLF and that HLF did not solicit funds that were provided to Hamas,” the bond memorandum stated.
From his defense comes the usual allegations of racist persecution. Evidently all these guys are reading out of the same playbook.
Ismail’s Dallas attorney, John Wheat Gibson, dismissed the government allegations as government persecution tantamount to German government persecution of Jews during the 1930s.
“What this young man is going through is pretty much what a lot of Jewish Germans had to suffer in 1936,” Gibson said. “It had nothing to do with the merits of the case; it has to do purely with the ethnicity of the defendant.”
Gibson also said that even if his client did wear several hats while working for HLF, raising money for an organization that Ismail believed was a legitimate charity is not a crime.
“He was doing the same job that the secretary for the Baptist church does,” Gibson said. “They have no evidence that he was any more than a graphic artist. He was working for a nonprofit corporation.”
The Bush administration in December 2001 cited FBI and foreign intelligence in claiming that HLF and some of its employees worked as clandestine U.S.-based support for Hamas, a group that has repeatedly deployed suicide bombers in a often-stated quest to eliminate the state of Israel.
Supporters have steadfastly maintained that HLF was a legitimate charity that helped only needy Muslims across the globe but they have lost legal appeals to reopen all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
One former FBI counter-terrorism official who worked on the HLF investigation said the charity funneled large sums of money as incentives for suicide bombers to strike.
“It was to help support those families, telling the terrorists that we will take care of your family if you do this for Allah,” said Tino Perez, recently retired head of the Dallas FBI’s International Terrorism squad. …
But a spokesperson for the DFW Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, defended Ismail as nothing more or less than a devoted father and husband. Court records show that Ismail came to the U.S. on a student visa in 1990 to attend the University of Texas at Tyler.
“They need to focus on the real terrorists, not innocent people that happen to be Muslims or Arabs … and being targeted because of that,” she said.
Maybe this man really is innocent. But when has a Muslim ever been arrested when such spokesmen didn’t say “They need to focus on the real terrorists”? Just who would this spokesperson identify as a “real” terrorist? George W. Bush? Ariel Sharon?