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Holy Land charity takes seizure fight to court: Richardson group wants U.S. to return assets, denies terror link

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    Assalamu alaikum Holy Land charity takes seizure fight to court Richardson group wants U.S. to return assets, denies terror link 07/18/2002 By MICHELLE
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2002
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      Holy Land charity takes seizure fight to court
      Richardson group wants U.S. to return assets, denies terror link


      By MICHELLE MITTELSTADT / The Dallas Morning News


      WASHINGTON Attorneys for a Texas-based Muslim charity accused of
      bankrolling international terrorism head to court Thursday to demand the
      return of millions of dollars seized by the U.S. government.

      Lawyers for the now-dormant Holy Land Foundation for Relief and
      Development, which was based in Richardson, contend that the government's
      freeze was predicated on the false claim that the organization funneled
      money to the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

      "The government has branded Holy Land a terrorist, seized the foundation's
      assets and put its employees out of work on the basis of an administrative
      record that is false in material respects," the organization's lawyers
      wrote in a legal filing this month.

      They insist that the charity was solely dedicated to charitable and
      humanitarian aid in the Middle East and elsewhere.

      Saying Holy Land's constitutional, religious and administrative rights
      were violated, they sued in March, asking a federal judge to force the
      Bush administration to unblock financial assets and return other property
      seized in a Dec. 4 raid on its offices in Texas, California, Illinois and
      New Jersey.

      The raids and seizures followed an FBI investigation of nearly nine years.

      Justice Department lawyers have argued that the seizures were appropriate.

      Documentary evidence

      In court papers, they cited a "vast majority of documentary evidence"
      showing that Holy Land "raised money on behalf of Hamas, received funding
      from Hamas, took direction from Hamas leadership and from its beginnings
      until its designation [as a terrorist organization] distributed money to
      Hamas-controlled organizations."
      Hamas, a militant Islamic organization dedicated to Israel's destruction,
      has claimed responsibility for a rash of lethal suicide bombings.

      The Bush administration last year froze millions of dollars held by Holy
      Land and two Chicago-area Islamic charities Global Relief Foundation and
      Benevolence International Foundation charging that all three funded
      terrorist activities.

      Representatives of the organizations have vigorously disputed the
      allegations, each going to court to challenge the seizures as

      If the results in the Global Relief litigation so far offer any road map,
      attorneys for Holy Land may have a hard time prevailing in court.

      A federal judge in Chicago refused last month to lift the order freezing
      Global Relief's assets, saying the organization probably wouldn't be able
      to prove that its constitutional rights had been violated.

      Attorneys for the Justice Department have raised the same point in the
      Holy Land case, which comes before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in
      Washington on Thursday.

      "Plaintiff cannot meet its burden of showing that the designation of Holy
      Land Foundation and the blocking of its assets had no rational basis," the
      government lawyers wrote recently.

      'Without probable cause'

      Holy Land contends, however, that the government overreached by seizing
      its assets "without notice, without a hearing, without a warrant, without
      probable cause, without statutory authority and without any rational
      The actions by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control
      were predicated on a biased, faulty administrative record, Holy Land
      lawyers contend. They're asking the judge to consider additional evidence
      they've compiled.

      "A rational and impartial agency, confronted with evidence that its
      decision to brand an American charity a terrorist and put it out of
      business rested on flawed information, would welcome [indeed demand] a
      full airing of the facts," they wrote. "But the government has taken the
      opposite tack here.

      " ... Despite powerful evidence that the administrative record is
      incomplete and skewed, the government demands that the court blinder
      itself and adhere to that record, regardless of its flaws and outright

      Justice lawyers defend the accuracy of the record. They are battling the
      foundation's attempt to have the judge consider outside information,
      saying Holy Land rejected an opportunity to provide additional evidence
      during the administrative process. They also contend it's outside the
      judge's purview to consider such evidence.

      "Courts in this circuit and elsewhere have routinely rejected attempts by
      those challenging agency action to proffer evidence beyond the
      administrative record," the Justice attorneys wrote in a recent filing.

      Limited review

      The government insists that the judiciary has only a limited right of
      review, arguing that its decision to freeze Holy Land's assets constituted
      an administrative act.
      "This court should also accord deference to the executive branch when
      considering plaintiff's claims," the Justice Department said.

      "Whether or not courts afford such deference in the nonemergency domestic
      context, there is a well-established practice of deferring to the
      executive branch's actions in the area of national security and foreign
      policy even when adjudicating constitutional claims."

      E-mail mmittelstadt@...

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