Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holy Land Foundation Still Under the Gun

While the failure of the government to get a conviction against members of the Holy Land Foundation for supporting terrorism, the charity still is hamstrung. Under the Economic Suppression, oh, 'scuse me that's Control, the foundation will have all sorts of hoops to jump through if it ever is to continue doing good as it was intended.

LAST month, officials of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were carried out of a Dallas courthouse on the shoulders of jubilant friends and relatives after a federal jury largely vindicated them of charges of providing material support to the terrorist group Hamas.

The victory -- the jury acquitted or hung on all charges -- is in many ways a hollow one. Since December 2001, when the Holy Land Foundation was deemed a "specially designated global terrorist" by the Bush administration, the foundation's assets have been frozen by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control. The criminal case has no impact on the freeze. The legal and moral incongruity of the organization's situation highlights the problems inherent in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act -- a statute that was once used exclusively to penalize hostile foreign countries but that was expanded during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to target groups and individuals believed to be supporters of terrorist groups.

In a criminal procedure, such as the trial of the Holy Land officials, prosecutors must provide evidence, and defendants can challenge that evidence or present their own. Only if a jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt will the defendants be convicted and punished.

Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the process is turned on its head.

Of course, the judge in this case allowed agents of the Israeli secret service to testify without revealing their identities, so constitutional protections were forbidden to the defendants - as I have posted previously. The government has failed to sustain its charges in three cases to date, and in this case did not even bring the most serious charges, which were obviously unsustainable.

As commenter 1bernice comments at WaPo, Like the enabling resolution for a "war on terror," this so-called emergency economic powers act needs to be rescinded. Both give far, far too much power to a government run by ideologues to use the justice system and/or the military to punish those who disagree with them.

Indeed, this act gives many too many powers to a government that has proved it is inclined to use them through the 'justice' department to end disagreement with itself rather than to seek any justice. It is dangerous to let the abuse of our justice system go on.

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