Unindicted Co-conspirators and the Presumption of Innocence

June 18, 2008
The Constitution of the United States prohibits the government from accusing a person or an organization of being a criminal without a forum for them to defend themselves or clear their names. Individuals and organizations have a Fifth Amendment right to be free of government-imposed stigma against their good names and reputations. The Department of Justice's policy manual specifically warns U.S. Attorneys, that "there is ordinarily ‘no legitimate governmental interest served' by the government's public allegation of wrongdoing by an uncharged party."

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However, in a 2007 Texas criminal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a case in which the government alleged the defendants had conspired to provide material support to Hamas, the U.S. attorney named an astonishing 246 people and organizations as "Unindicted Co-conspirators and/or Joint Venturers" and made the list public. Some of the country's largest, mainstream Muslim organizations were listed, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). The government's public designation of NAIT and ISNA as unindicted co-conspirators, without a forum to defend themselves, has harmed their reputations and their missions.

In June 2008, the ACLU filed a motion in the Holy Land Foundation case requesting that its clients - ISNA and NAIT - be removed from the list of unindicted co-conspirators. The motion argues that the public branding of ISNA and NAIT as participants in a criminal conspiracy violates their Fifth Amendment rights.

RESOURCES
> ACLU Reply to Government's Opposition to Motion for Equitable Relief
> Government's Opposition to Motion for Equitable Relief
> Statements of Support for UCC Clients
> ACLU Challenges Government's Stigmatizing Of Mainstream Muslim Groups In Holy Land Case (6/18/2008)
> Motion For Equitable Relief

MORE

> Court To Hear Arguments Today In Case Testing Material Support Statute (4/18/2008)
> The First And Fifth Amendments Are Not Optional
> Weak Case Seen in Failed Trial of Charity
> Case Against Largest US Muslim Charity for Supporting Terrorism Results in Mistrial (10/22/2007)
> Violating Rights in the Name of Security
> Human Rights Abuses Under the Material Witness Law Since Sept. 11, 2001 (6/27/2005)
> "A Hungry Child Knows No Politics" (American Constitution Society, Issue Brief)

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