« | »

Susan Estrich: Funding Jihad Is Religious Right

From the Worcester County (MA) Telegram & Gazette:

Two high-profile lawyers join Islamic charity case

Oct 10, 2006

First Amendment issues in case will be argued

By Kevin Keenan TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

WORCESTER— A pair of nationally recognized lawyers have been retained to argue First Amendment issues in a criminal case involving an Islamic charity and two of its officers who are charged with misrepresenting the charity’s work.

Susan R. Estrich, a lawyer, author and media pundit, who managed Michael S. Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign, and Harvey A. Silverglate, a noted Cambridge criminal defense lawyer, entered appearances Thursday as counsel for Emadeddin Z. Muntasser of Brookline. He is accused of misleading the government about the nature of Care International Inc., a charity the government claims supported jihadist and mujahedin organizations.

Muhammed Mubayyid of Shrewsbury is also charged in the case, which is being heard in U.S. District Court in Worcester.

Mr. Silverglate said he and Ms. Estrich were drawn to the case because of several First Amendment issues, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech. He said criminal cases rarely involve First Amendment issues.

“This is a case involving free speech,” Mr. Silverglate said. “All of the conduct outlined in the indictment is protected by the Constitution…. You don’t get that many criminal cases that are directly in violation of the First Amendment.” …

In recent court filings, the defense lawyers called the case a prime example of the government trying to “rewrite history” to suit its purposes after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

They contended that it also shows the government prefers other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, over Islam, and that the alleged criminal activity was actually the exercise of a religious right.

Last Thursday, Mr. Muntasser and Mr. Mubayyid’s lawyers submitted a motion to dismiss the indictment against them.

The lawyers made several arguments for a dismissal, including that the U.S. government supported and organized charities that also supported jihadist and mujahedin organizations in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation there, and, that it is a constitutionally-protected right to solicit or promote such religious efforts.

“Religion permeates this entire case,” the memorandum in support of the motion said. “ Care was set up to advance religious goals; jihad is a religious concept; zakat (giving to charity) is a religious obligation; support for the mujahedin is, according to certain interpretations of the Koran, a religious command. It is absolutely clear that the government is not free to prefer one religion over another: If Jews and Catholics are free to raise money and support their chosen causes domestically and internationally, no different rules may be applied

“At the heart of this case is the right of an established religious charity to collect funds and distribute literature. That right has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, even where municipalities and other local governments found the message of the charities offensive and their fundraising downright reprehensible. That speech protection is at its greatest when the underlying cause is religious in nature; and it does not matter that solicitation of funds is involved.”

Both men were indicted in May 2005. Mr. Mubayyid, a Lebanese national, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, aiding and abetting a scheme to conceal material facts from the Internal Revenue Service, and to three counts of filing false tax returns. Mr. Muntasser, a Libyan national, pleaded not guilty to charges of engaging in a scheme to conceal material facts from the government, conspiring to defraud the government and making false statements. Both men are free on bond while awaiting trial.

The men are not charged with providing material support to terrorist organizations. Rather, they are charged with scheming to conceal the fact that Care was an “outgrowth of and successor to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center,” an organization that was implicated in the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York on Feb. 26, 1993. The government contends that had the IRS known that Care’s activities were listed as distributing information about jihad and raising money for various jihadi groups, it would not have been granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

The memorandum raised many controversial issues, including the U.S. government’s role in establishing charities in the 1980s to support mujahedin and the jihad against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. The memorandum cites several charities given 501 c(3) status by the IRS for promoting and aiding the Afghan jihad, including, the National Endowment for Democracy, The American Friends of Afghanistan, and, The Free Afghanistan Alliance, among others.

“Activities that were considered charitable in 1985, 1989, 1991, or 1992 do not become non-charitable in 1993 because the identity of the donor changes, or because the United States’ strategic interest in jihad has lessened,” according to the memorandum.

The court filing also takes issue with the government’s classification of “zakat” which is a Muslim obligation to donate a portion of their earnings to charitable causes. According to the memorandum, the teachings of the Quran says Muslims have an obligation to give “zakat” and that “the mujahedin are widely interpreted to be one of the eight categories of recipients entitled to zakat.” …

The FBI claims that Care International raised about $1.7 million from 1993 to 2003, when it ceased to operate. Care International claimed it raised money for widows and orphans, but it also raised money for terror groups, according to the FBI. Court records in the Worcester case say checks deposited into Care International accounts had phrases such as “for jihad only” and “Bosnia Jihad fund” and “Chechen Muslim Fighters” handwritten on the memo lines of donors’ personal checks.

Mr. Muntasser told a member of the agency’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that he visited Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1994 for humanitarian purposes. He later told a federal immigration officer that he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan seven times between March 1993 and November 1997, including one 30-day trip to the two countries from December 1994 to January 1995.

By the way, this isn’t the real relief organization known as CARE (for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere).

These jihadists were just trying to rip off their name as well, so as to get donations under false pretenses.

Ms. Estrich probably thinks they have that right as well.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, October 11th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

20 Responses to “Susan Estrich: Funding Jihad Is Religious Right”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.


« Front Page | To Top
« | »