The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a legal challenge in federal court on behalf of two Islamic charities that say their reputations have been damaged by the U.S. government’s criminal case against the Holy Land Foundation, a now-defunct charity accused of aiding terrorists.
Both the Islamic Society of North America, in Plainfield, Ill., and the North American Islamic Trust, in Burr Ridge, Ill., are labeled as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the Holy Land Case, which ended in a mistrial last fall but is due to be retried in September.
The Holy Land Foundation is accused of providing some $12-million to groups run by Hamas, a Palestinian militant organization the U.S. government has labeled a terrorist group. The leaders of the group have denied the charges.
The motion filed in U.S. District Court states that the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust, which both disavow any connection to terrorism, have been “publicly branded” as criminals in their connection to the Holy Land Case, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The legal action seeks to expunge the names of the charities from all documents related to the case.
The Islamic Society of North America is described in the legal brief as “the nation’s largest mainstream Muslim community-based organization.” The group promotes civil engagement among American Muslims and works to educate the broader public about Islam. The North American Islamic Trust holds in trust the titles to several mosques and Muslim schools across the country.
“For many people, when they hear the designation ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ what they really hear is just ‘conspirator,’” says Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America. “This makes it very difficult for us to continue to have relationships that are built on trust.”
Additionally, Ms Mattson says the government action has put a strain on fund-raising efforts.
“We’ve had some of our supporters ask if they would have any problems if they donated to us,” she says. “And certainly we’ve had to divert some funds that would have gone to our programs to legal defense.”