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Four Palestinians in the US awaiting presidential pardon

December 26, 2020 at 11:34 am

Ghassan Elashi, CEO of the Holy Land Foundation speaks with the media during a press conference in Richardson, Texas, USA [Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK) has called on US President Donald Trump to issue presidential pardons to four Palestinians who have been working in the field of humanitarian relief for years and have been subjected to unfair trials. The four Palestinians awaiting presidential pardons are Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Ghassan Elashi and Mohammad El-Mezain.

AOHR UK pointed out that the US president, whose term is coming to an end, has the constitutional power to issue presidential pardons to defendants and convicts, and has recently issued pardons which were met with widespread criticism.

Long-term charitable work

The four Palestinians are members of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) charity established in 1989, based in Texas, to provide support to the poor and orphans in Palestine. The US authorities closed HLF and confiscated its assets following the events of 11 September, 2001.

Charges and the first trial

In July 2004, the Public Prosecutor issued charges against the four men including supporting a terrorist organisation. The trial began in August 2007‏, lasting two months. The judge declared its failure after the jury had reached a dead-end.

Read: Humanitarian organisations in the face of Israeli tyranny

Second trial

The federal judge in Texas insisted on reopening the case to convict the men. Therefore, a new jury was formed, and the hearings started again before a new judge. The hearings only lasted six weeks, and clearly lacked the standards of a fair trial, resulting in convictions in November 2008.

In May 2009, Judge Jorge Solis sentenced Abu-Baker to 65 years in prison, El-Mezain to 15 years, Abdulqader to 20 years, Elashi to 65 years and Abdelrahman Odeh (recently released after the expiration of his sentence) to 15 years in prison.

AOHR UK confirmed that unlike those to whom Trump issued presidential pardons, the Palestinians did not commit any crime inflicting harm on US national security. They were simply victims of the state of hostility that spread following the events of 11 September.

A goodwill gesture?

AOHR UK wondered whether Trump would offer a goodwill gesture towards the Palestinian people who have suffered greatly from his recent decisions, which aim to eliminate their cause, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and cutting off all forms of support to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

AOHR UK called on all supporters of the Palestinian cause, civil society institutions and human rights organisations in the US and abroad to appeal to the US president to issue presidential pardons. This is the only way to end the ongoing injustice suffered by the detainees and their families.