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Holy Land chairty trial

 

Newsweek - August 8, 2007

Linking groups to Holy Land trial a 'tactical move'

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball

The Justice Department this summer abruptly cancelled a high-profile “Muslim outreach” event featuring Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after discovering that one of the invited guests was an officer of an organization just named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a major terrorism case.

The scheduled event was slated to take place in the main department auditorium known as the Great Hall of Justice on June 27—with Gonzales billed as the keynote speaker. The program was titled “Securing America: Law Enforcement Partnerships with American Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Communities,” according to the official invitation, which went out to scores of groups and individuals last spring.

But after the invites went out, aides to Gonzales suddenly became alarmed that it could create a new embarrassment for the embattled attorney general. The reason: one of the featured speakers was a prominent Northern Virginia imam who serves as vice president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which had just been branded by federal prosecutors in court papers as a U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood—the international movement, based in Egypt, dedicated to the creation of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. ISNA, which has not been charged with any crime, was among more than a hundred organizations and individuals who were listed in late May as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation - the Texas-based group now on trial in Dallas for allegedly conspiring to funnel funds to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

The discovery created tensions among officials of the department’s civil-rights division (which organized the event) and the criminal division’s counterterrorism section (which is overseeing the prosecution). It prompted Justice officials to hastily “postpone” the event, calling up and e-mailing the invited guests in early June and informing them that the attorney general had a “scheduling conflict.”…

The very same day as the postponed Justice event, for example, President Bush conducted a similar Muslim outreach event, giving a major speech at the rededication of the Islamic Center in Washington. In the address, the president announced the administration’s plans to appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference—the first time the U.S. government has ever done so. Among the invited guests at that event was Northern Virginia imam Mohamed Magid, the vice president of ISNA, and the very same official whose scheduled presence at the Justice event triggered concerns that it could cause problems for Gonzales. Also invited to the Islamic Center event—and cleared by the White House for attendance—was Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), another organization recently branded by prosecutors as a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate and named to the unindicted co-conspirator list in the Holy Land case.

In fact, Justice officials readily acknowledge they have no evidence that Magid is linked to terrorism or committed any crime—and one senior official pointed out that the Sudanese-born imam did not even become an officer of ISNA until last year, well after the events at issue in the Holy Land case.

In a brief telephone interview with NEWSWEEK Wednesday, Magid pointed a reporter to an e-mail statement saying that the ISNA was seeking an immediate retraction of the government’s “unfounded allegations” in the Holy Land case. “ISNA is not now and has never been involved in any covert or illegal activity and has never supported any terrorist organizations,” the statement read. “Rather, ISNA is an open and transparent membership organization that strives to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization … ISNA hereby reaffirms its unqualified condemnation of all acts of terrorism.”

Hooper, the CAIR spokesman, also denounced the listing of his group as an “unindicted co-conspirator” of the Holy Land Foundation, calling it “completely unjustified.” He added: “When you’re named in this way, you have no legal recourse.”

According to one senior law-enforcement official (who asked not to be named talking about an ongoing case), the listing of ISNA, CAIR and other groups as “unindicted co-conspirators” was largely a tactical move by the government. By listing the groups, the official said, it makes it easier for prosecutors to introduce documents, tapes and other evidence mentioning them and which relate to what the government charges is a wide-ranging conspiracy to raise money in the United States in support of Hamas. (Even though Hamas leaders last year won elections and now effectively run Gaza, the group remains a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.)

As outlined in recent court papers filed in the trial, prosecutors claim that the alleged conspiracy was run by a “significant” and “well-organized” Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure inside the United States that included a vast array of Muslim groups—such as CAIR and ISNA—that facilitated the Holy Land’s activities even though the entities themselves did not directly commit any crimes. One apparent government goal in the trial (which is now under way) is to show the common Muslim Brotherhood roots of Holy Land and the other U.S. Muslim organizations—a potentially significant point to make to the jury, given the government’s claim that Hamas itself is the “Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Holy Land lawyers are contesting all of the government’s charges and claim that Holy Land and its officers were simply raising money for social-welfare programs to benefit Palestinians, not terrorism……

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20185599/site/newsweek/

CAIR - August 9, 2007

Smearing U.S. Muslim Groups is 'Un-American'

Given the growing fear of Islam and Muslims among the American public (one-in-four admit to being prejudiced against Muslims), it has become easy to smear Islamic organizations. Without legal recourse to challenge such smears, the constitutional rights of American Muslims suffer through guilt by association and guilt by mere accusation. This chills the First Amendment rights of American Muslims.

By Dr. Parvez Ahmed

In December 2001, the Department of the Treasury named the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation (HLF), at that time the nation's largest Muslim charity, as a terrorist organization. The government seized HLF's assets and shut down the organization, thus freezing millions of dollars in religiously-obligated donations offered by American Muslims and others to feed and clothe orphans and the needy.

After three years of investigation, the government "revised" its allegations against HLF and a federal grand jury issued a 42-count indictment against seven individuals associated with the charity. The indictment alleged that those individuals were part of a "conspiracy" to provide material support to organizations linked to Hamas, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

Almost six years later, the HLF officials are finally getting their day in court, as a trial is underway in Dallas.

The government's trial brief argues that HLF gave donations to 12 Israeli-licensed Palestinian charities that were allegedly "associated" with Hamas. This argument is made despite the fact that the U.S. government has not identified the Palestinian charities as supporting terrorism or banned them from receiving American donations. In fact, one of the charities has received aid from the U.S. government.

In an unusual, and some would say un-American, move prosecutors publicly named 306 individuals and organizations as "unindicted co-conspirators" (UCC) relating to the HLF case.

Among those listed are three major American Muslim organizations - the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Collectively, these groups represent the interests and viewpoints of the mainstream American Muslim community.

Listing a person or group as a UCC is not a legal designation of wrongdoing on the part of those named. The UCC designation merely allows for an exception to the hearsay rule, making "co-conspirator" statements admissible during trial.

A recent article in Newsweek stated: "According to one senior law-enforcement official. . the listing of ISNA, CAIR and other groups as 'unindicted co-conspirators' was largely a tactical move by the government. By listing the groups, the official said, it makes it easier for prosecutors to introduce documents, tapes and other evidence mentioning them. . ."

This dubious practice, which offers the named parties no legal recourse, is quite controversial. Professor Ira P. Robbins of American University recently wrote in the Federal Courts Law Review: "[The] practice of naming individuals as unindicted co-conspirators. . appears to be an anomaly in United States law, in that it violates the Fifth Amendment guarantee that no person shall. . .be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Three federal prosecutors asked by the Los Angeles Times about the practice of publicly naming unindicted co-conspirators called it "improper" and "unfair."

This McCarthyite political move violates the Justice Department's own guidelines, which indicate that such lists are to remain sealed to prevent the unfair and un-American labeling of those who are not facing any criminal charges.

The Justice Department's manual for prosecutors says, "In all public filings and proceedings, federal prosecutors should remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of uncharged third-parties." The guidelines further state that when co-conspirator lists have to be filed in court, prosecutors should seek to file them under seal.

In a recent Washington Post article, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski opined that the "war on terror" has caused America more harm than anything that the terrorists ever imagined. It has created a culture of fear in the U.S. "The atmosphere generated by the 'war on terror' has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them."

Given the growing fear of Islam and Muslims among the American public (one-in-four admit to being prejudiced against Muslims), it has become easy to smear Islamic organizations. Without legal recourse to challenge such smears, the constitutional rights of American Muslims suffer through guilt by association and guilt by mere accusation. This chills the First Amendment rights of American Muslims.

It is our duty as Americans to demand that the due process rights of all citizens be preserved and protected. At a time when most experts are recommending the strengthening of American Muslim institutions to serve as bridges of understanding between America and the Muslim world, smearing these same institutions undermines the very cause that ought to unite us as Americans.

Liberty and justice for all cannot be a mere slogan. In order to reclaim our global leadership, America needs to work with its Muslim citizens to prevent the downward spiral of misunderstanding and hostility that threatens to engulf our world.

[Parvez Ahmed is board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. He is also an associate professor at the University of North Florida. His e-mail address is pahmed@cair.com.]