Monday, June 23, 2008

ACLU Files Motion in U.S. District Court Seeking to Have the Names of Two Islamic Charities Removed from Case Against a Third Islamic Charity

          The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported (click here) on June 19 that the American Civil Liberties Union had filed a motion (click here for motion) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in the case of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (hereinafter, Holy Land Foundation), which is accused of (but the organization denies) providing about $12 million to Hamas, a Palestinian Organization.  The motion seeks to have the names of two Illinois Islamic Charities -- the Islamic Society of North America, in Plainfield, Ill., and the North American Islamic Trust, in Burr Ridge, Ill., removed from all documents in the case against the Holy Land Foundation and five of its backers.  The Holy Land Foundation trial ended in a mistrial in the fall of 2007.

          The two Islamic Charities are identified in the litigation against the Holy Land Foundation as "unindicted co-conspirators."  To no one's surprise, linking the organizations to an indicted organization accused of financially supporting terrorism and terrorist organizations has caused fund raising problems for both charities.  Below is a fuller excerpt of the story:

The motion filed in U.S. District Court states that the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust, which both disavow any connection to terrorism, have been "publicly branded" as criminals in their connection to the Holy Land Case, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The legal action seeks to expunge the names of the charities from all documents related to the case.

The Islamic Society of North America is described in the legal brief as "the nation’s largest mainstream Muslim community-based organization." The group promotes civil engagement among American Muslims and works to educate the broader public about Islam. The North American Islamic Trust holds in trust the titles to several mosques and Muslim schools across the country.

"For many people, when they hear the designation ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ what they really hear is just ‘conspirator,’" says Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America. "This makes it very difficult for us to continue to have relationships that are built on trust."

Additionally, Ms Mattson says the government action has put a strain on fund-raising efforts.

"We’ve had some of our supporters ask if they would have any problems if they donated to us," she says. "And certainly we’ve had to divert some funds that would have gone to our programs to legal defense."

For the full story, click here.

          In October 2007, the New York Times extensively reported the mistrial in the United States' prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation and five of its backers.  The New York Times reported that the case was understood by many to be the most important and legally complex case in the United States fight to stop American dollars from being funneled to terrorist organizations.  The mistrial was seen as a tremendous blow to Bush's War on Terrorism from the homefront.  Prosecutors are currently weighing a decision to re-file the charges in this case in September.  In the original prosecution, 197 charges were filed and the jury could not render a guilty verdict on even one of them.  The New York Times reported that, "[t]he case involved 197 counts, including providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. It also involved years of investigation and preparation, almost two months of testimony and more than 1,000 exhibits, including documents, wiretaps, transcripts and videotapes dug up in a backyard in Virginia," and at the end of 19 days of deliberation, the jury could not find any of the defendants guilty on any of the 197 counts and became hopelessly deadlocked.

The men charged in the case alleged through their lawyers that their indictments stemmed from the fact that they all have family ties to Hamas leaders but that the charity raised and gave money to Palestinian poor, and not terrorist as alleged.  The men basically defend on the premise that one cannot pick one's family.  You are born into it, or sometimes, marry into it but that's it.  For the New York Times story, click here.

AMT

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2008/06/aclu-files-moti.html

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