An officer from an elite IDF unit was called to testify in a US district court in northern Texas on Friday, during a trial against a leading American Islamic charity accused of financing terror activities by Hamas.
Five senior officials in the Holy land Foundation for Relief and Development, created in the 1980s by Hamas operative Musa Abu Marzuq, were charged with diverting charitable funds from their organization to Hamas.
The Israeli witness, nicknamed "Major Lior", testified in closed court, containing only prosecution and defense attorneys and the five accused foundation leaders.
Others were able to hear the officer's voice from an adjacent room, but were forbidden from seeing his face as an Israeli condition for allowing him to testify.
Major Lior, speaking in Hebrew translated to English, told of documents and tapes seized by him and his soldiers during the course of a military operation targeting alleged Palestinian charities in Gaza and the West Bank suspected of serving as a front for Hamas.
The officer was questioned only about the authenticity of the documents, not their content. He was also exempted from answering questions posed by the defense.
Since the documents serve as the basis of the indictment against the foundation officials, defense attorneys complained to presiding federal judge Joe Fish, claiming that hiding the identity of the witness violated their clients' sixth amendment rights "to be confronted with the witnesses against them."
The Dallas Daily News interviewed legal experts who said that similar proceedings had been used in the past, during trials of mafia members in the United States, in order to protect the life of the witness.
Another member of the Israeli security forces is expected to testify at the trial soon, regarding the content of the documents and tapes discovered during the military operation against the Hamas charities.
This is the second time Israeli witnesses have been called to testify in a US trial against defendants accused of connections with Palestinian terror. In early 2007, two Israeli security operatives arrived in Chicago to testify against Muhammad Salah, who was accused of transferring almost $100,000 to Hamas.
This trial is also not a first for the Holy Land Foundation. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the US Justice Department handed down a 42-count indictment against it in July 2004, naming the Foundation and its top leaders in a conspiracy to provide aid to a terrorist organization and the families of suicide terrorists.
Ynetnews contributed to this report