“Muslim charity wants charges dismissed,” by David Koenig for Associated Press:
DALLAS – A Muslim charity accused of ties to terrorists has asked a federal judge to dismiss many of the charges the U.S. government filed against it after the 2001 terror attacks.
Lawyers for the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development based the request on a ruling last month by a federal judge in Los Angeles, who struck down President Bush’s authority to designate groups as terrorists.
Holy Land’s lawyers argued in their motion, filed Monday in federal district court in Dallas, that a similar order by President Clinton, banning transactions with the militant group Hamas, was also unconstitutional.
They said the order was vague and arbitrary, lacking any standards for why a group or individual was labeled a terrorist. They also argued that the order could be enforced in a discriminatory way by police officers and judges.
Lawyers for the now-defunct charity asked the court to dismiss more than two dozen counts of a lengthy indictment. They earlier asked the court to drop other charges.
Holy Land officials have said the group aided hospitals, schools and orphans in the West Bank and Gaza. Federal agents shut down the charity in 2001 after the government accused the group of funneling millions to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The group and five of its officers are scheduled to go on trial in July in Dallas.
The group’s former chairman, Ghassan Elashi, was sentenced last month to nearly seven years in prison in a separate case for having financial
ties to a high-ranking Hamas official and making illegal computer exports to countries that support terrorism. A judge allowed Elashi to remain free to help attorneys prepare for the Holy Land trial.
Elashi was also the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR.
Kathy Colvin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas, said prosecutors would file a motion opposing Monday’s request to drop charges. She declined to comment further.
In the Los Angeles case last month, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said Bush’s September 2001 order designating 27 groups and individuals as global terrorists was too vague and could infringe their constitutional right of free association.
The 27 groups and individuals named in Executive Order 13224 included Al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Seif al-Adel. Many others have been brought under the authority of this order, including Hamas (see p. 47, column 2).
The judge said the groups had no way to challenge Bush’s labeling of them as terrorists.
The Washington Post notes that:
Collins has previously issued similar rulings in favor of the Humanitarian Law Project, a Los Angeles group that has filed legal challenges to a 1996 anti-terrorism law and to the 2001 USA Patriot Act. Those issues are still being litigated after Congress rewrote parts of the Patriot Act.
Background on those rulings here, including Collins’ complaint that those laws, which banned material support for terrorist groups, “offered no distinction between support for violent and non-violent activities.”