ACLU Defends Peace Activists Facing Fines Over Iraq Travel Ban
New York Clergyman and Wisconsin Businessman Are Denied Right to Hearing, ACLU Charges
NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits this week on behalf of two peace activists accused of going to Iraq as "human shields" prior to the beginning of the war in 2003. Both are fighting an effort by the federal Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to impose large fines on them without allowing them to contest the charges.
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> New York case
> Wisconsin case
The ACLU of Wisconsin is representing Ryan Clancy, a 28-year-old Milwaukee-area businessman, while the ACLU of New Jersey and the New York Civil Liberties Union are representing Reverend Frederick Boyle, 55, a Methodist minister from Nyack in upstate New York.
In legal papers filed today, the ACLU of Wisconsin argued that OFAC's rules violate their client's rights to due process and freedom of travel and speech.
"The government does not claim that Ryan Clancy provided any financial benefit to the Iraqi government or even to any individual Iraqis," said Christopher Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. "This fine clearly isn't about controlling 'foreign assets.' It's about squelching the ability of people to travel and learn for themselves what is going on in disputed countries like Iraq and then punishing those who have the courage to question the government's version of events upon their return."
In the New York case, Rev. Boyle was assessed a fine of $6,700 for allegedly traveling to Iraq in early 2003. He is challenging OFAC's authority to issue the fine and challenging the legality of the process by which the agency determines such penalties. Rev. Boyle's case was filed yesterday in the Southern District of New York.
"The sanctions regulations violate our most basic freedoms of travel and of religious and political expression as American citizens," said Rev. Boyle, a lifelong pacifist and outspoken critic of U.S. military action in Iraq. Boyle said he believes the government has singled him out for prosecution owing to media coverage of his views about the war.
At issue in both cases is the lack of a meaningful opportunity to challenge the fine. The regulations do not permit a person to find out the basis for the government's accusations, to confront witnesses, or to have a hearing with a neutral decision-maker.
The ACLU's lawsuits both ask that the fines be dismissed or that the cases be returned to OFAC to hold a meaningful hearing at which Clancy and Rev. Boyle can contest the charges. In both cases, the ACLU is arguing that the government required their clients to answer the accusations without giving them immunity from a possible additional criminal charge based upon the same alleged activity. Criminally, violations of these regulations are punishable by up to 12 years in prison and by $1 million in fines, or both.
"This process doesn't follow even the most rudimentary principles of fundamental fairness," said Jonathan Hafetz of Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, who, along with Lawrence Lustberg, is the ACLU of New Jersey cooperating attorney representing Boyle. "The administrative process offered Rev. Boyle has less procedural protection than if he had been issued a parking ticket."
In view of the inadequacy of OFAC's procedures and Boyle's potential sentencing to over a decade in prison, he sought a stay of the enforcement action from OFAC until the expiration of the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. Alternatively, he sought a grant of immunity from prosecution or agreement to waive prosecution. OFAC denied those requests, but did reduce the penalty from $10,000 to $6,700 last March. The agency did not make a finding that Rev. Boyle acted as a "human shield," an allegation Rev. Boyle has denied.
Legal papers in the New York case are online at http://www.aclu-nj.org/legal/legaldocket/frederickboylevrobertwwern.htm.
Legal papers in the Wisconsin case are posted online at /cpredirect/11274.