Anti-War Activists to Refuse to Testify to Grand Jury
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010 by the Associated Press
Anti-War Activists Whose Homes Were Raided To Refuse Orders To Testify
by Michael Tarm
CHICAGO - Anti-war activists whose homes or offices were raided as part
of an FBI terrorism funding investigation will refuse to testify before
a grand jury as ordered, in a show of defiance that could land them in jail.
Attorneys for the 14 activists called to testify have coordinated their
responses since the Sept. 24 raids and have agreed their clients won't
testify, Melinda Power, an attorney for a Chicago couple whose home was
searched, said Tuesday. Agents searched seven homes and one office in
Minneapolis and Chicago.
"They feel grand juries are now, and have historically been, a tool of
harassment against activists", Power said.
Some of the anti-war activists won't testify because they don't want to
be complicit in what they see as an attempt to stifle freedom of speech
and assembly, said Jess Sundin, whose Minnesota home was raided.
"We feel like the reason we're being called and we're being looked into
is because of our very legitimate and constitutionally protected work in
the anti-war movement," she said.
About 50 peace activists protested Tuesday outside of the Dirksen
Federal Building in Chicago, where the grand jury was to convene.
"We will not be silent," Stephanie Weiner told protesters. She and her
husband, Joe Iosbaker, were the two activists whose home was raided in
Some subpoenas ordered activists to appear before Oct. 5. Sundin, who
was subpoenaed to appear on Oct. 12, said activists sent separate
letters to prosecutors indicating they do not intend to testify.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago,
declined to comment about the case.
Some legal observers say the activists could go to jail.
"There's no chance prosecutors will just let it slide if they keep
refusing," said Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago attorney with no link to the case.
As a next step, the government could reissue subpoenas - possibly this
time with an offer of immunity. If the activists decline to appear then,
a judge could hold them in contempt.
A key issue is whether any of the activists are targets of prosecutors
or whether prosecutors merely consider them witnesses against another
Just after the raids, FBI spokesman Steve Warfield said the bureau was
seeking evidence related to "activities concerning the material support
But Sundin said no one has told activists who is or isn't the focus of
the investigation. She said that puts them all in jeopardy of
self-incrimination, she said.
"It's just you, and the prosecutor and the jury (at the grand jury
proceedings)," Sundin said. "So it is a very precarious situation for
anyone to put themselves in."
Meredith Aby, a Minnesotan who was subpoenaed to testify Tuesday but did
not make the trip to Chicago, also said the grand-jury process was unfair.
"I think they are an incredibly repressive and undemocratic tactic," she
Someone who is a target can refuse to testify under their Fifth
Amendment right against self-incrimination without risking a contempt
charge, Pissetzky said. If they are granted immunity, however, a grand
jury witness is required to answer questions, he said.
Activists who have spoken with reporters have denied giving money to
The homes of two other longtime Minneapolis anti-war activists, Mick
Kelly and Meredith Aby, were also among those searched last month.
The warrant for Kelly's home sought evidence on travel he did as part of
his work for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and information on
any travel to Colombia, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria or
Two groups use the name Freedom Road Socialist Organization, one based
in Chicago and one in New York. They split several years ago, and the
New York group said it was not targeted.
Kelly's subpoena also commanded him to bring records he might have
relating to the Middle East and Colombia, along with records of any
payment provided to Hatem Abudayyeh.
The subpoena did not further identify Abudayyeh, but FightBack! has
interviewed and carried articles by a Hatem Abudayyeh who's the
executive director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network.
Abudayyeh did not answer his office phone Tuesday and a recorded message
said the voicemail was full. A message left on his cell voicemail was
not returned. Several activists said their cell phones had been
confiscated by the FBI.
Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this
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Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
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Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
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-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"