ACLU Challenges Government's Authority To Designate Charities As Terrorists Without Due Process Or Court Oversight
Court Should Block Blacklisting Of KindHearts And Lift 33-Month-Old Freeze On Charity's Assets
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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TOLEDO, OH – A federal court should block the government from blacklisting an Ohio-based charity without providing it due process and should lift a freeze on the organization's assets, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio and several civil rights lawyers argued today. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) froze the funds of KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, Inc. more than 33 months ago without notice or a hearing, based simply on the assertion that the charity was "under investigation." OFAC then threatened to designate KindHearts as a "specially designated global terrorist" (SDGT) based on classified evidence, again without providing it with a reason or meaningful opportunity to defend itself.
"OFAC's unlimited authority to seize KindHearts' property and shut it down without giving the charity notice or an opportunity to defend itself is unconstitutional," said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and lead ACLU attorney on the case. "KindHearts has been in limbo for more than two and a half years and is asking for independent judicial scrutiny of what has been, until now, unilateral government action."
KindHearts' founders established the charity in 2002 – after the government shut down a number of Muslim charities – with the express purpose of providing humanitarian aid abroad and at home in the United States in full compliance with the law. Despite the efforts KindHearts took to implement OFAC guidance and policies and otherwise exercise diligence, OFAC froze its assets in February 2006.
In October 2008, a federal judge granted the ACLU's request for an emergency order blocking the government from designating KindHearts as an SDGT without further judicial review. Today's motion asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to lift the freeze on KindHearts' assets and to block the threatened designation of the charity as an SDGT, or, in the alternative, to block the threatened designation until KindHearts has been provided with constitutionally adequate due process approved by the court.
"The government has threatened to designate KindHearts as an SDGT based solely on suspicion and secret evidence that the charity and its lawyers have not been allowed to see," said Fritz Byers, an Ohio attorney on the case. "In order for real justice to be served, KindHearts must be provided its day in court and the chance to defend its most valuable asset – its reputation."
The attorneys filing the case on behalf of KindHearts are Shamsi and National Security Fellow Alexander Abdo of the ACLU; Byers of Toledo, Ohio; David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center; Lynne Bernabei and Alan Kabat of Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC in Washington; and Jeffrey Gamso and Carrie Davis of the ACLU of Ohio.
The ACLU's motion is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/discrim/37862lgl20081121.html
More information about the case can be found online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/discrim/37097prs20081009.html