DALLAS – Three Dallas-area brothers were found guilty Wednesday of supporting terrorism by funneling money to a high-ranking official in the militant Palestinian group Hamas (search).
The case was one of the government's highest-profile terrorism prosecutions. The 2002 indictment was announced personally by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft (search), who called the defendants "terrorist money men" for Hamas.
Ghassan, Basman and Bayan Elashi (search) were tried on 21 counts of conspiracy, money laundering and dealing in property of a terrorist. Jurors had begun deliberating Wednesday morning after nearly two weeks of testimony.
Ghassan and Bayan Elashi and their company were found guilty on all 21 counts. Basman Elashi was found guilty on three counts.
Prosecutors said the men tried to hide a $250,000 investment by the Hamas official in their Richardson computer company by making it look as if it came from his wife. In court papers, prosecutors listed about $270,000 in payments from the company to Mousa Abu Marzook (search) and his wife.
Marzook lived in Louisiana and Virginia until 1995, when the federal government named him a terrorist, which made it illegal for anyone in the United States to have financial dealings with him. Marzook was deported and is believed to be living in Syria.
Prosecutors said the Elashis' computer company, InfoCom Corp., continued to make payments to Marzook's wife into 2001.
Prosecutors presented evidence from wiretapped conversations, financial documents and InfoCom employees that they said showed the Elashis were dealing with Marzook and not his wife.
In closing arguments Tuesday, attorneys for the Elashis said prosecutors had failed to prove that the men broke any laws.
Defense attorneys said Marzook's wife — Nadia Elashi, a cousin of the defendants — controlled the $250,000 invested in InfoCom. They said she used the payments she received in return to cover living expenses, not support terrorism.
The Elashis' lawyers also said government officials know about the arrangment between InfoCom and the Marzooks for several years but took no action to stop it.
Marzook and his wife were named in the same indictment as the Elashis but have not been captured.
The three Elashis plus two of their brothers were convicted last year on separate charges of making illegal technology shipments to Libya and Syria, countries that the U.S. government considered state sponsors of terrorism. All five are awaiting sentencing.
The Elashis were also active in Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Muslim charity that was shut down in 2001 after the government accused it of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas.
Holy Land is expected to go on trial early next year.