Virginia ACLU Calls for Return of Items, Unsealing of Affidavits Used for Raids on Muslim Establishments

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
May 3, 2002 12:00 am

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ALEXANDRIA, VA–The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case being argued today on behalf of three Muslim establishments and ten Muslim families in Northern Virginia whose possessions were taken during raids by government agents in March.

In the brief, the ACLU argues that many of the items — especially books, magazines and pamphlets — should not have been taken because the First Amendment affords them extra protection against seizure. The ACLU also argues that the affidavits used as the basis for issuing the search warrants should be unsealed to determine if the government had proper justification for taking the items.

“”The Fourth Amendment says we have a right to be free of unreasonable searches,”” said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia, “”but as long as the affidavits used as the basis for the search warrants are sealed, we will never know if the searches were justified.””

“”A secret government is perhaps the most frightening government of all,”” added Willis. “”Not only do the individuals whose homes and offices were searched have a right to know why they were searched, but in an open society that information should be shared with all citizens.””

During the raids, which took place on March 20 and 21, scores of armed federal and local agents seized not only books, magazines and pamphlets, but also computers, financial records, photographs and other personal items. Although the raids took place nearly six weeks ago, no charges have been filed, and none of the items have been returned.

Nancy Luque, an attorney with Reed Smith LLP, is providing legal representation for the Muslim establishments and families. Luque will argue in court today that her clients’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the search warrants were overly broad and because many of the seized items were beyond the scope of the warrant.

Luque is seeking the return of all seized property, or in the alternative the return of the computers and copies of all seized documents. She will also ask that the affidavits be unsealed to determine if the warrants were properly issued.

The three Muslim establishments raided in March are The Graduate School of Islamic Thought and Social Sciences, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and the Sterling Management Group, Inc.

The case, In the Matter of 750A Miller Drive Leesburg, VA, et al., No. 02-MG-122, is being argued in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

The ACLU’s legal brief is online at /Files/Files.cfm?ID=10378&c=184.

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