The American Civil Liberties Union filed a request in Dallas federal court Wednesday to have two Muslim organizations removed from a list of unindicted co-conspirators compiled by prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case.
Both the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) argue in court papers filed by ACLU lawyers with U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis that they are mainstream Muslim organizations that have been unfairly branded criminals by being included on the government's list.
A similar request not made by the ACLU was filed in August by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, to have its name removed from the unindicted co-conspirators list. It is pending.
The unindicted co-conspirators list consists of about 300 names of individuals and entities allegedly linked in some way to the Holy Land case. Prosecutors have said they compiled the list so that statements from people in the named organizations could be used at trial without them being considered hearsay.
The U.S. attorney's office in Dallas did not comment on Wednesday's ACLU motion, citing a long-standing gag order in the case.
Last year, five former organizers of the formerly Richardson-based Holy Land Foundation were tried on charges that they funneled millions of dollars to the violent Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. government for its targeting of Israelis. Holy Land was once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S.
The case ended in mistrial last fall. The retrial is set for Sept. 8.
The government's list says that ISNA, NAIT and CAIR have been tied to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Prosecutors at last year's trial called it an Islamist group that is the parent organization of the Hamas movement.
ISNA is a national community-based Muslim group, and NAIT is a charitable trust that holds deeds on mosques and Islamic centers across the U.S.
The leaders of both groups say that they were blindsided by their inclusion as unindicted co-conspirators, noting that they were told by government authorities before last year's public release of the list that they were not suspected in any criminal activity.
"The government has effectively convicted NAIT, or at least saddled it with an accusation of terrorism, without ever having to charge it with a crime, produce any evidence or prove its case to a judge or jury," said Muzammil Siddiqi, NAIT's chairman, in an affidavit filed with Wednesday's motion.
It's unclear when Judge Solis will issue rulings on the three groups' requests.
"What we'd really like to see is a decision before the trial starts in order to have that stigma removed, before all these issues are prominent again," said Hina Shamsi, one of the ACLU attorneys who filed Wednesday's request.