The American Human Rights Council (AHRC) joins its voice to the voices of many in the nongovernmental community who have called on President Obama to commute the sentence of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) defendants to time served.
The President has the pardon power and the commutation power. The commutation power allows him to reduce the sentence of individuals imprisoned in federal prisons. AHRC strongly urges the President to rectify the injustice of the extraordinarily long sentences imposed on five well-respected Muslim American humanitarians.
The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was the biggest American Muslim charity that did charitable work helping the Palestinian people. In the aftermath of the Post 9/11 attacks, HLF was prosecuted and convicted by the federal government. Five well- regarded members of the Muslim American community, Mufid Abdulqader, Shukri Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammad El-Mezain, and Abdulrahman Odeh, were given unusually lengthy sentences that shocked the American Muslim community for their harshness.
It is believed that President Obama is currently reviewing the clemency petition filed on the behalf of the HLF defendants. While we greatly respect the judicial process, we believe that the sentences imposed were excessive and that this is a situation where the exercise of the commutation power is warranted and justified.
There are many equities that justify this commutation. The defendants received the harsh and extraordinary sentences of 15 to 65 years. They have already served eight years. The extraordinary harshness of the sentences, tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, is grasped when compared to Israel’s treatment of the same violation. Israel, where the violations occurred, imposes a maximum of four years for the same violation. The defendants have already spent eight years in prison- twice the maximum sentence in Israel.
President Obama has spoken many times and written a law review article on the laudable goal of criminal law reform, in the spirit of protecting the constitutional and human rights of defendants. One of the issues with our legal system is the imposition of unduly harsh long sentences. We believe that the HLF defendants’ case is one of these harsh and long sentences cases that call for rectification of the injustice through commutation of the sentences to time served.
“The Holy Land Foundation case if one of the most traumatic experiences of the American Muslim community. The case sent shock waves through the humanitarian sector worldwide,” said Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive director. “We believe that given the equities, it is in the interest of justice to commute their sentences to time served,” concluded Hamad.