[Dr. Parvez Ahmed is Board Chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)]
In December 2001, the U.S. Treasury Department 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 it down, effectively freezing millions of dollars in religiously obligated donations made for the purposes of feeding the poor, the orphan and the indigent.
After three years of investigation, the government "revised" its allegations, and a federal grand jury issued a 42-count indictment against seven individuals associated with HLF. The indictment alleges that these individuals were part of a conspiracy to provide material support to organizations linked to Hamas (designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department).
Almost six years later, HLF is finally getting its day in court in a trial under way in a Dallas courthouse.
The government's trial brief argues that HLF made donations to 12 Israeli-licensed, Palestinian charities that were allegedly "associated" with Hamas. However, the U.S. government has not identified these Palestinian charities as supporting terrorism or banned them from receiving American donations.
In an unusual (and some would say un-American) move, prosecutors publicly named 307 individuals and organizations as "unindicted co-conspirators" (UCCs) relating to the HLF case.
Among those listed are three major American Muslim organizations: the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Islamic Trust and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. 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 allows for an exception to the hearsay rule making "co-conspirator" statements admissible during trial.
This practice, in which the named parties have no legal recourse, is controversial and seemingly un-American. 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 who were 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.