Islam and Muslims -- Facts and Fiction

-- Joy, Fury Over Kosovo Independence Declaration - 2/18/08
-- Egyptian court bans convert to Christianity from changing ID card - 2/01/08
-- CIA chief: Al-Qaida behind Bhutto slaying -  1/18/08
-- Palestinians fire big rockets amid peace talks - 1/16/08
-- Congressmen Seek Answers about Terror Expert's Firing - 1/16/08
-- US court overturns $156 million award in terrorism suit against Islamic charities - No date posted - 08?


 Joy, Fury Over Kosovo Independence Declaration

February 18, 2008    By Patrick Goodenough International Editor

( - Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence has sparked reactions that make it clear the final chapter in the upheavals that roiled the Balkans at the end of last century has yet to be written.

Within minutes of the announcement in the capital, Pristina, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called the newly declared entity a "phony state" and said "as long as the Serbian people exist, Kosovo remains Serbia."

In a televised statement, the nationalist prime minister criticized "the president of the U.S." in particular, saying America had shamelessly breached international law by supporting independence for Kosovo.

Newly reelected president Boris Tadic in a statement appealed to NATO's KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo to protect the Serb minority there from possible outbreaks of violence by members of the Muslim ethnic Albanian majority.

Angry protestors in Belgrade marched on the U.S. Embassy, chanting "Kosovo is Serbia." At least 30 policemen were injured, local media reported. The ultra-nationalist Radical Party is planning a mass rally in the capital on Thursday.

Earlier, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci set off celebrations by declaring an independent state, which they said would be "democratic, secular and multiethnic."

The territory of two million people has been under U.N. supervision since a NATO campaign in 1999 ended Serb atrocities against the Albanians and forced the withdrawal of Belgrade's troops from the province.

As Kosovar Albanians celebrated the announcement, Serbia's Russian ally called an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting which reflected the international split over the issue.

The U.S. and most European governments, including permanent council members Britain and France, are supportive of "supervised independence." Russia is firmly opposed, as is the remaining permanent member, China.

"Kosovo's unilateral act can produce a series of results that will lead to seriously negative influence on peace and stability in the Balkan region," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing on Monday.

Lui said the sides should continue to seek a proper solution through negotiation.

Months of negotiations have, however, had little success, and Sunday's announcement has been expected ever since a Dec. 10 deadline on reaching an agreement on Kosovo's final status passed without resolution.

Because Russia has vowed to use its Security Council veto to block independence, Kosovo's international status will remain in limbo. While it may boast trappings of statehood including a new blue-and-gold flag, it will not immediately obtain membership of the world body.

The forthcoming days will see some governments recognize the new state, with the United States and many European Union (E.U.) countries among the first, along with some Islamic nations, including Saudi Arabia and Albania.

The E.U. is split, however, with at least six of the 27 member states -- Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia -- unlikely to recognize an independent Kosovo, largely because of concerns about secessionist movements in their own neighborhoods.

A number of other countries, including Group of Eight members Canada and Japan, have indicated that they will not recognize the new state immediately.

'It creates no precedent'

One country that is more concerned than most is Georgia, which since the early 1990s has grappled with two breakaway regions of its own -- the pro-Moscow enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia has long hinted that if the West supports an independent Kosovo, it would in turn throw its backing behind an independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Interfax news agency quoted a top Georgian lawmaker as saying the government of Georgia would not recognize Kosovo's independence.

Georgia's West-leaning President Mikhail Saakashvili has frequently accused Russia of trying to destabilize Georgia by stirring up tensions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In a statement released after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with the leaders of the two territories, Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, "the declaration and recognition of the independence of Kosovo will doubtless have to be taken into account as far as the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is concerned."

President Vladimir Putin has warned that independence for Kosovo will set a legal "precedent" that could be cited elsewhere. Apart from Georgia, other secessionist situations in the former Soviet region remain unresolved in Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Moldova (Transdnistria).

At Sunday's Security Council session, U.N. envoy Alejandro Wolff disputed the argument, telling reporters "we have knocked it down over and over again. This is an unprecedented situation, it creates no precedent."

In an earlier statement, delivered to the Security Council late last week, Wolff said the recent history of the region made Kosovo different from other conflicts.

"The situation in Kosovo is sui generis and provides no precedent for any other part of the world," he said. "It hasn't ever been, it isn't, and it shall not be a precedent. There is no purpose served in pretending otherwise, and the United States will act consistently with this fact in how it looks at other conflicts."

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow, joined former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and senior Bookings Institution fellow Peter Rodman late last month in calling for a reassessment of U.S. policy on Kosovo.

They noted that notwithstanding the U.S. insistence that Kosovo would not set a precedent, ethnic and religious minorities in other countries have already signaled their intention to follow Kosovo's example.

Bolton, Eagleburger and Rodman also voiced concern about what they called "the dismissive attitude displayed toward Russia's objections," and asked, "On an issue of minor importance to the United States, is this a useful expenditure of significant political capital with Russia?"

'Stand up to threats'

Critics of U.S. policy on Kosovo include the non-profit American Council for Kosovo, whose director, James George Jatras, warned in a recent op-ed article for UPI that the issue "could transform into a full-blown global crisis."

Kosovar Serbs' concerns about what independence would mean for them were "well-founded."

"Since 1999, some 150 Christian shrines have been destroyed or desecrated," Jatras said. "At the same time, hundreds of mosques have been built, mainly with Saudi money and propagating the intolerant Wahhabi brand of Islam."

He argued that there was no clear U.S. interest in supporting independence for Kosovo.

"Why should we provoke a needless fight with a newly muscular Russia? Especially after Sept. 11, why should America want to be midwife to the birth of a new Islamic country in Europe?"

Heritage Foundation scholars Nile Gardiner and Sally McNamara called for the West to be united in supporting full independence for Kosovo.

"The Western powers must stand up to any threats coming from Belgrade and Moscow and support full membership for Kosovo in the United Nations as a sovereign state," they wrote in a weekend memo.

Gardiner and McNamara said the U.S. and E.U. should encourage Serbian leaders to seek E.U. membership, while making it clear that any attempt to sabotage Kosovo's sovereignty would only isolate Belgrade and weaken its chances of joining the E.U.

Among the most recent declarations of independence by territories without the consent of legal governing authorities are the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, and Rhodesia in 1965. Neither won international recognition.


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 Egyptian court bans convert to Christianity from changing ID card

'No one leaves Islam,' judge rules

February 1, 2008    © 2008


No one ever leaves Islam, according to a judge in Egypt who has cited Islamic religious law in rejecting a request from a Muslim convert to Christianity to be allowed to change his religious affiliation on his national identification card.

In a decision that forecasts more and more decisions being based on Shari'a, Islam's religious law, Judge Muhammad Husseini has concluded it violates the law for a Muslim to leave Islam.

According to a report from Compass Direct News, the judge found that the convert, Muhammad Hegazy, "can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can't convert."

The report said Husseini cited Article II of the Egyptian constitution, making Islamic religious law the "source" of Egyptian secular law, as the basis for his conclusion.

Since Islam is the "final" and "most complete" religion, Muslims already have full freedom of religion and are not allowed to return to the "less complete" Christianity or Judaism, the ruling said.

It's a new peak in the rise of Islam in Egypt, which The Middle East Review of International Affairs said began with Anwar Sadat's tenure in power.

"He then initiated what one could, in hindsight, term 'the Great Islamic Transformation' of Egypt. The first step was to stipulate in the Second Article of his new Constitution, promulgated in 1971 (long before Khomeini embarked on his Islamic revolutionary campaign), that the Principles of Islamic Shari'a were 'a main source' of legislation. In May 1981, the 'a' was replaced with 'the,' making Shari'a the term of reference for the entire constitution, meaning all other articles were to be interpreted in that light," the organization said.

"The curricula of public schools, established by the Ministry of Education, ignore the Coptic era in Egypt's history. Courses glorifying Islam (the 'Only True Religion') and its history, while vilifying the crusaders (i.e. Christians) and the Jews, are imposed on all students," the group said.

"In the case of a father of a Christian family converting to Islam, his minor children are forced to follow suit: The mother's custody rights – a well established legal principle – are ignored in this case, as children, according to typical court rulings, are supposed to follow the 'better (or 'more noble') of the two religions,'" the group said.

On the pro-freedom website called Sons of Apes and Pigs, a commentary noted that the Egyptian court decision "went on and issued a very explicit warning to Muhammad Hegazy, his wife and their lawyer, that going against the tide would provoke civil unrest and exacerbate emotions in the Egyptian society."

"Freedom of religion doesn't mean getting in and out of Islam to another religion, but only means that each person is free to practice his own religious rites, and not playing games with Islam or contradicting Shari'a law," the website said the judge concluded.

The website, which said it took its name from Quranic descriptions of Christians and Jews, said Westerners don't realize the significance of having a national ID card listing the carrier as Muslim.

"If you get caught going to a church while your religion on your ID is Muslim, that could get you arrested, questioned and tortured," the commentary said. "The latest victim was a 27-year-old woman, Mrs. Sherreen, mother of two children from Alexandria, Egypt. She died at the police station on Jan. 3, 2008, after five hours of torture for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and come back to Islam."

The website noted in Egypt, children of parents with Muslim IDs automatically are Muslims, and they are required to follow mandatory Islamic indoctrination classes, and Muslims cannot marry non-Muslims.

It also said to apply for any job, an applicant must provide the state-designated religious affiliation.

The website also noted according to multiple media reports, Hegazy's father issued a statement that, "when I'll meet my son, I will discuss with him the reasons and circumstances that 'forced' him to leave Islam, and will offer him the opportunity to come back to Islam, but in case he refuses, I will kill him immediately."

Press reports say Hegazy's case was the first time someone had sought to make a change from Islam in the religious designation on an official national ID card.

Hegazy has reported he was studying various religions, and found he was not consistent with Islam.

"The major issue for me was love. Islam wasn't promoting love as Christianity did," he said.

As a result of his conversion he's reported being arrested and tortured several times, but it's opened wide the eyes of observers, the Apes and Pigs website said.

"Muhammad Hegazy's case dynamited the Islamic mountain of lies, propaganda and false pride," the commentary said. "Not only in Egypt, but all over the Arab world. Exposed to the world [was] the deception of the Islamic governments, Egypt in particular … [of] 'no compulsion in religion.'"

According to the Compass Direct report, Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, whose lawyers have been representing the convert, said that he was disappointed with the verdict.

"The judge didn't listen to our defense, and we didn't even have a chance to talk before the court,” Eid said.

Meanwhile, death threats have forced the couple, whose new daughter is only a month old, into hiding.

Compass also reported that at least partly because of the case, lawyers in Egypt now are trying to force the government to outlaw conversion from Islam in secular law as well as religious law.

WND previously has reported on a ruling from a U.S. federal court that an Egyptian Christian who had fled his home nation "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured." The ruling allowed the Egyptian Christian to remain in the United States.

The court pointedly concluded that "diplomatic assurances" of his religious rights "by a country known to have engaged in torture" weren't reassuring.

A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years.

"They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship," the report said.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, also lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting it had "a poor overall human rights record."

In addition, Egyptian authorities have threatened two young boys who were ordered to take training to be Muslims, but refused, stating they are Christian.


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 CIA chief: Al-Qaida behind Bhutto slaying

Echoing Musharraf, Hayden says al-Qaeda, militants behind ex-PM’s death

Jan. 18, 2008     By Joby Warrick     The Washington Post

The CIA has concluded that members of al-Qaeda and allies of Pakistani tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud were responsible for last month's assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and that they also stand behind a new wave of violence threatening that country's stability, the agency's director, Michael V. Hayden, said in an interview.

Offering the most definitive public assessment by a U.S. intelligence official, Hayden said Bhutto was killed by fighters allied with Mehsud, a tribal leader in northwestern Pakistan, with support from al-Qaeda's terrorist network. That view mirrors the Pakistani government's assertions.

The same alliance between local and international terrorists poses a grave risk to the government of President Pervez Musharraf, a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, Hayden said in 45-minute interview with The Washington Post. "What you see is, I think, a change in the character of what's going on there," he said. "You've got this nexus now that probably was always there in latency but is now active: a nexus between al-Qaeda and various extremist and separatist groups."

Hayden added, "It is clear that their intention is to continue to try to do harm to the Pakistani state as it currently exists."

Days after Bhutto's Dec. 27 assassination in the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistani officials released intercepted communications between Mehsud and his supporters in which the tribal leader praised the killing and, according to the officials, appeared to take credit for it. Pakistani and U.S. officials have declined to comment on the origin of that intercept, but the administration has until now been cautious about publicly embracing the Pakistani assessment.

Widespread suspicion of Musharraf
Many Pakistanis have voiced suspicions that Musharraf's government played a role in Bhutto's assassination, and Bhutto's family has alleged a wide conspiracy involving government officials. Hayden declined to discuss the intelligence behind the CIA's assessment, which is at odds with that view and supports Musharraf's assertions.

"This was done by that network around Baitullah Mehsud. We have no reason to question that," Hayden said. He described the killing as "part of an organized campaign" that has included suicide bombings and other attacks on Pakistani leaders.

Some administration officials outside the agency who deal with Pakistani issues were less conclusive, with one calling the assertion "a very good assumption."

One of the officials said there was no "incontrovertible" evidence to prove or rebut the assessment.

Al-Qaida rebuilding in region

Hayden made his statement shortly before a series of attacks occurred this week on Pakistani political figures and army units. Pakistani officials have blamed them on Mehsud's forces and other militants. On Wednesday, a group of several hundred insurgents overran a military outpost in the province of South Waziristan, killing 22 government paramilitary troops. The daring daylight raid was carried out by rebels loyal to Mehsud, Pakistani authorities said.

For more than a year, U.S. officials have been nervously watching as al-Qaeda rebuilt its infrastructure in the rugged tribal regions along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, often with the help of local sympathizers.

In recent months, U.S. intelligence officials have said, the relationship between al-Qaeda and local insurgents has been strengthened by a common antipathy toward the pro-Western Musharraf government. The groups now share resources and training facilities and sometimes even plan attacks together, they said.

"We've always viewed that to be an ultimate danger to the United States," Hayden said, "but now it appears that it is a serious base of danger to the current well-being of Pakistan."

Policy hasn't changed, Hayden says
Hayden's anxieties about Pakistan's stability are echoed by other U.S. officials who have visited Pakistan since Bhutto's assassination. White House, intelligence and Defense Department officials have held a series of meetings to discuss U.S. options in the event that the current crisis deepens, including the possibility of covert action involving Special Forces.

Hayden declined to comment on the policy meetings but said that the CIA already was heavily engaged in the region and has not shifted its officers or changed its operations significantly since the crisis began.

"The Afghan-Pakistan border region has been an area of focus for this agency since about 11 o'clock in the morning of September 11, [2001], and I really mean this," Hayden said. "We haven't done a whole lot of retooling there in the last one week, one month, three months, six months and so on. This has been up there among our very highest priorities."

Hayden said that the United States has "not had a better partner in the war on terrorism than the Pakistanis." The turmoil of the past few weeks has only deepened that cooperation, he said, by highlighting "what are now even more clearly mutual and common interests."

Hayden also acknowledged the difficulties -- diplomatic and practical -- involved in helping combat extremism in a country divided by ethnic, religious and cultural allegiances. "This looks simpler the further away you get from it," he said. "And the closer you get to it, geography, history, culture all begin to intertwine and make it more complex."

Regarding the public controversy over the CIA's harsh interrogation of detainees at secret prisons, Hayden reiterated previous agency statements that lives were saved and attacks were prevented as a result of those interrogations.

He said he does not support proposals, put forward by some lawmakers in recent weeks, to require the CIA to abide by the Army Field Manual in conducting interrogations. The manual, adopted by the Defense Department, prohibits the use of many aggressive methods, including a simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

"I would offer my professional judgment that that will make us less capable in gaining the information we need," he said.

Staff writer Robin Wright and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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 Palestinians fire big rockets amid peace talks

January 16, 2008    By Aaron Klein    © 2008

Major escalation against Israel as U.S.-brokered negotiations continue

JERUSALEM – In what would be considered a major escalation, Hamas has claimed to WND it fired Katyusha rockets from the Gaza Strip aimed at a strategic Israeli city.
Katyusha rockets can travel further and carry much larger payloads than Qassam rockets, the brand usually launched by Gaza-based terror groups.

Qassams, about four feet long, usually can travel up to about five miles and are filled with explosives, fuel and shrapnel. Katyushas can travel more than 12 miles and are able to deliver a devastating amount of explosives. Hezbollah in 2006 hit northern Israel with more than 4,000 Katyushas, killing 43 Israeli civilians and injuring 4,262 more.

Hamas claimed it fired two Katyushas last night and another today aimed at Ashkelon, a port town about 10 miles from the Gaza Strip that is home to strategic fuel depots and electrical stations that supply power to most of southern Israel.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces denied knowledge of any Katyushas fired at Ashkelon, stating only Qassams were launched from Gaza in recent days.

The IDF several times has denied various Palestinian rocket attacks, including a Katyusha that Hamas claimed it fired at the Israeli city of Sderot last year, only to later release limited information confirming the attacks.

In one of the largest single-day rocket salvoes, the IDF confirmed over 40 Qassam rockets and dozens of mortars were fired today at southern Israeli cities. Palestinian terrorists yesterday launched 25 rockets into Israel.

The attacks come in the wake of an Israeli anti-terror operation launched yesterday targeting Gaza's rocket installations and killing 15 Palestinian militants the IDF said were involved in rocket firings.

Today, the IDF reportedly mistakenly hit a car of Palestinian civilians while targeting a nearby vehicle carrying terrorists who had just fired rockets at Israel. While Palestinian terror leaders vowed revenge, the IDF pointed out it put to use better targeting capabilities in recent years that has limited the number of civilians killed in air strikes from roughly 50 percent in 2002 to 2-3 percent last year.

Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, thousands of rockets have slammed into nearby Jewish cities.

In line with agreements outlined at the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit in November, Israel is widely expected to evacuate large swaths of the West Bank and some sections of Jerusalem to create a Palestinian state this year.

President Bush visited the region last week to encourage the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to continue negotiations leading to a Palestinian state. According to diplomatic sources, Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met today as the rockets were landing in Sderot and Ashkelon.

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 Congressmen Seek Answers about Terror Expert's Firing

January 16, 2008    By Fred Lucas Staff Writer

( - Members of Congress are seeking more information regarding the firing of a top terrorism expert at the Pentagon following reports that he was dismissed for being too critical of Islamic law.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon Joint Staff told Stephen Coughlin, a specialist on Islamic law at the Pentagon, that his contract would not be renewed in March. The firing apparently resulted from pressure by pro-Muslim officials working in the Department of Defense, according to numerous news reports.

Meanwhile, members of Congress have not had much success in getting answers from the Pentagon either, said Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), co-chair of the bi-partisan House Anti-Terrorism Caucus.

"We want to get to the bottom of this," Myrick told Cybercast News Service Tuesday. "We are contacting everyone to see who we can talk to."

Coughlin - who supporters say had one of the most important jobs in analyzing how Jihadists think -- crossed Hasham Islam, an aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, according The Washington Times.

The paper reported, without attribution, that the aide told Coughlin to "soften his view" on radical Islam. When Coughlin refused, Hasham Islam called him a Christian zealot "with a pen," according to the report.

The incomplete reports and near silence from the Pentagon creates the need to get at the truth, Myrick said.

"This sounds like another example of someone protecting national security and being told to shut up," Myrick continued. "If we don't get over being politically correct, we won't be here as a country."

This week, Myrick said she began contacting other co-chairs of the Anti-Terrorism Caucus, such as Rep. Jane Harmon (D-Calif.), Rep. Richard "Bud" Cramer (D-Ala.), and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) about setting up a meeting with Coughlin and Pentagon officials to find out the circumstances behind the firing.

Myrick stressed that any congressional inquiry is in the early, talking stages, but she has contacted the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Homeland Security Committee to inquire about investigative hearings into the case.

While any inquiry by Congress would be significant, the Anti-Terrorism Caucus is only a group of House members that can hold a meeting and ask questions. It does not have authority to take action or issue subpoenas, which congressional committees have.

Myrick said the Pentagon is requiring any congressional requests to go through the Defense Department's Legislative Affairs Office before Coughlin would be available to speak to anyone.

Coughlin, an attorney, a former Army intelligence officer, and a major in the Army Reserves, could not be reached for comment for this story. Those who know him say he will not talk to the media until his employment with the Defense Department is over.

Coughlin's 333-page thesis, " To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad," was accepted last year by the National Defense Intelligence College. The report describes an Islamic culture that teaches violence from an early age.

It says, for instance, "So how does one explain the prevailing assumption that Islam does not stand for such violence undertaken in its name with the fact that its laws and education materials validate the very acts undertaken by 'extremists' in Iraq?"

And continues, "The first 'radicalizing' lessons Saudi youth receive that motivates them to travel to Iraq and fight coalition forces does not come from 'extremist' groups like al Qaeda, but rather is taught as part of Saudi Arabia's standard secondary school curriculum."

The sentiments of Coughlin's research apparently were too much for some in the Pentagon, said Andrew Bostom, an author and lecturer on Islam, who has known Coughlin for more than three years.

He and Coughlin conducted a lecture at the Naval War College in Rhode Island last year, and Bostom spoke to Pentagon officials on other occasions at Coughlin's request.

"The general sense I got from Steve is that no one at the Pentagon could argue in a rational way against his analysis, so there was unfortunately a lot of petty resistance," Bostom told Cybercast News Service.

"His law-based presentation, fact-based presentation demonstrates that the so-called extremists are firmly rooted in Islamic law," said Bostom. "You can't just ascribe al Qaeda as a phenomenon that comes out of a vacuum. Invoking sociological and anthropological ideas and ignoring Islamic law will not get us far."

Jerome Gordon, a former Army intelligence officer who knows Coughlin, said many rank-and-file Defense Department officials are supportive of Coughlin.

"He was the only expert they retained on the Joint Staff with that kind of knowledge of Islamic law and jihad in what we're calling the long war against Jihad," Gordon told Cybercast News Service . "Steve used authentic Islamic sources. The documents he used stand equivalent to legal briefs supporting the legal doctrine of Jihad."

Questions submitted by Cybercast News Service to the Pentagon were not answered by press time.

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 US court overturns $156 million award in terrorism suit against Islamic charities

No date posted - 08?

A United States federal appeals court on Friday overturned a $156 million award against US-based Muslim activists for their involvement in the terrorist death of an American teenager in the West Bank more than a decade ago.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the judge in the case had failed to require the parents of 17-year-old David Boim to properly show a link between the boy's shooting death by Hamas - a group designated by the US as a terror organization - and the fundraising activities of the charities.  Because of that error, it sent the case back for a possible new trial.  The Boims' attorney, Nathan Lewin, said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.  ''This court of appeals decision is wrong, very wrong,'' Lewin said. ''It amounts to encouragement of financial contributions to terrorist organizations.''

Stanley and Joyce Boim had sued the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development; the American Muslim Society, also known as the Islamic Association for Palestine; the Quranic Literacy Institute, and Mohamed Salah, and an alleged Hamas fundraiser.  Their son, a yeshiva student, was gunned down in 1996 while waiting with other students at a bus stop in Beit El, on the West Bank.  A federal court jury in 2004 ruled in their favor and awarded them $52 million in damages in one of the first jury awards against US-based institutions accused of supporting terrorism.  In accordance with US anti-terrorism law, a federal magistrate subsequently tripled the amount of the damages levied against the defendants, who had all denied financing terrorism.

The ruling in 2004 came in addition to a crackdown against a group of US-based Islamic charities and others who saw their assets frozen and, in some cases, faced federal charges for allegedly funding groups deemed by the US as terrorist organizations.  The case against the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in the country when it was shut down in 2001, was the government's biggest terror-financing case since the Sept. 11 attacks.  Authorities closed it down after accusing it of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas.  Several people connected to the group were charged.

But, in a blow to the government, the case ended in a mistrial after none of the group's leaders was convicted and many acquittals were tossed out in October after some jurors took the rare step of disputing the verdict.

Salah was sentenced in July to 21 months in federal prison. He was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying under oath on a written questionnaire involving David Boim's death, stemming from the civil lawsuit filed by the teen's parents.

The jury, however, acquitted Salah of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy aimed at bankrolling Hamas.

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