List of Unindicted Co-Conspirators Should Have Stayed Sealed: Judge

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    RICHARDSON, TX - DECEMBER 5, 2001: (FILE PHOTO) Ghassan Elashi, CEO of the Holy Land Foundation, speaks to the news media during a news conference December 5, 2001 in Richardson, Texas. The Holy Land Foundation disputes claims made by the U.S. government that it used charitable donations to fund Hamas and their goal to destroy Israel. Elashi was identified as one of four men arrested by federal anti-terrorism agents December 18, 2002 on charges of money-laundering. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    A federal judge believed that prosecutors should not have publicly released a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the terrorist financing case of North Texas' Holy Land Foundation, but declined one group's request to be removed, according to an appeals court ruling.

    U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ruled last year that the release violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of the North American Islamic Trust, which has argued its inclusion on the list of 246 individuals and groups amounted to guilt by association.

    Prosecutors released the list three years ago, and copies have since been circulated on the Internet.

    After Solis sealed the order in 2009, NAIT asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to unseal the order, and sought to overturn his ruling that kept the group on the government's list.

    A three-judge appeals panel ordered on Oct. 20 that Solis' ruling be made public, but upheld his finding that NAIT remain on the list.

    NAIT's offices were closed Sunday and a messages left by The Associated Press were not immediately returned. The group has denied any links to terrorism.

    Solis' ruling has not yet been released, but details were included in the appeals court's order. Court officials told The Dallas Morning News for a story Sunday that, to allow for appeals, it could be weeks before Solis' ruling is released.

    A jury convicted five leaders of Holy Land, a former Richardson-based organization, and Holy Land itself in 2008 on counts related to giving more than $12 million to schools and social welfare programs controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. Holy Land's defense team last month filed appeals in case.

    Prosecutors declined to comment. The government has not appealed Solis' rights violation finding.

    In legal filings, prosecutors said their decision to publicly file the unindicted co-conspirator list before the 2007 trial was an "unfortunate oversight."

    Solis found that the list, which allowed introduction of certain statements and documents by co-conspirators, would have been just as effective filed outside public view.