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Judge Rules "Unconstitutional" Key Provisions of PATRIOT Act


By Greg Winter
Miami Herald | New York Times Service

Monday, 24 June, 2002

LOS ANGELES - A federal judge has dismissed the Justice Department's case
against seven people accused of funneling charitable donations to an Iranian
military group deemed partly responsible for the 1979 takeover of the U.S.
Embassy in Tehran and still labeled a terrorist threat.
After deliberating for months, Judge Robert M. Takasugi of U.S. District
Court in Los Angeles ruled on Friday that a 1996 law passed by Congress to
classify foreign groups as terrorist organizations is ''unconstitutional on
its face,'' and thus cannot be used as the basis of criminal charges.

That antiterrorism law, a cornerstone of the government's case against John
Walker Lindh, the American accused of aiding a foreign terrorist group,
makes it a crime to provide ''material support'' to any foreign organization
that the State Department deems a threat to national security. But the law
gives these groups ''no notice and no opportunity'' to contest their
designation, a violation of due process, Takasugi ruled.

`INFIRMITIES'

''I will not abdicate my responsibilities as a district judge and turn a
blind eye to the constitutional infirmities'' of the law, Takasugi wrote.

Because the government made its list of terrorist organizations in secret,
without giving foreign groups a chance to defend themselves, the defendants
''are deprived of their liberty based on an unconstitutional designation
that they could never challenge,'' he said.

The Justice Department said on Sunday that it had not decided whether to
appeal.

Wearing badges and flashing pictures of starving children, the seven
defendants stopped ''unwitting travelers'' at Los Angeles International
Airport for years, filling buckets with donations from passers-by, federal
prosecutors charged.

CONTRASTING IMAGES

While the group presented itself as a legitimate charity, the government
charged that it took orders from the People's Mujahedin, an organization the
administration blames for the murder of at least six U.S. citizens in the
1970s.

The government contended that the defendants wired more than $1 million into
overseas accounts to sustain People's Mujahedin military camps in Iraq,
where the group trains under the protection of Saddam Hussein.

The defendants, some of whom were born in Iran but are now American
citizens, denied the charges.

Started in the 1960s by educated, middle-class youths, the People's
Mujahedin, much like the Iranian fundamentalism that arose alongside it,
sought to expel the shah and purge the country of what it saw as pervasive
Western influences.

Shortly after the Iranian revolution, the secular mujahedin movement found
itself at odds with a government ruled by clerics.

© : t r u t h o u t 2002
 
 

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