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Muslim Charity Group Sues Gov't

By Associated Press

March 9, 2002, 4:25 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- A Texas-based Muslim charity organization has filed a lawsuit after the Bush administration froze the group's financial assets for allegedly funneling money to terrorists.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development denies any ties with Hamas, a militant Islamic group that has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Israel.

The suit filed Friday in federal district court in Washington contends the Bush administration violated the group's constitutional rights by shutting down the foundation's office in December and seizing its assets. The group raised $13 million two years ago and calls itself the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

"Holy Land has no choice but to bring this lawsuit so it can continue the lawful humanitarian work it does in Palestine and throughout the world," the group said a statement.

"We are reviewing it and will be making a determination on the next step in the near future," Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said Saturday.

The administration's order shut the doors of Holy Land's main office in Richardson, Texas, along with other offices in Paterson, N.J., Bridgeview, Ill. and San Diego. The action extended America's war on terrorism beyond al-Quida and other groups believed responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The 20-page lawsuit referred to a Nov. 5, 2001 memo from Dale Watson, the FBI's assistant director of the counterterrorism, in which Holy Land is labeled "the primary fund-raising entity for Hamas."

"Holy Land has never donated funds or provided services to Hamas or any other designated foreign terrorist organization," the suit said.

Founded in 1989 in California by Palestinian immigrants, Holy Land's Web site has frequently used strong language to condemn Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Israel barred Holy Land from operating within its borders in 1997 and contends that Islamic charities funnel money to the families of terrorists, making it easier for groups like Hamas to find suicide bombers.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press
 
 

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