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Associated Press
Dallas, Aug. 23–The leader of a nationwide Muslim civil-rights group says the U.S. government tried to shut down his group by publicly alleging it was involved in a terrorism-financing trial.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations was one of about 250 Muslim individuals and groups named unindicted co-conspirators in the trial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Five former Holy Land officials are accused of helping finance Hamas, which the U.S. government designated as a terrorist group.
The council is fighting its label in court.
Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the council, said prosecutors were trying to damage his group’s reputation and chill Muslim opposition to the prosecution of Holy Land Foundation leaders.
“I don’t know how else to interpret it,” he said. “Our lawyers couldn’t find another case where the list of unindicted coconspirators is this long and includes people who are dead, and that this was made public, violating the Department of Justice’s own guidelines.”
The judge has barred prosecutors from talking to the press, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.
Peter Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University, said naming unindicted coconspirators is rare. The designation carries a stigma, and the government often prefers to keep such information secret.
“The Department of Justice could argue there was a governmental interest in telling the public that there was a massive terrorist fundraising operation going on in the United States,” said Aaron Mannes, author of “Profiles In Terror: The Guide To Middle East Terrorist Organizations.”
The council has come up several times in testimony. An FBI agent said two founders of the group were present at a 1993 meeting in Philadelphia at which Hamas supporters plotted how to derail a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
Ahmed denied any link to Hamas by the council or the two founders who were in Philadelphia.
Ahmed said fundraising has fallen since the council was named a coconspirator.
A recent event in Florida that was expected to raise $250,000 brought in $160,000, he said. A dinner last weekend in Dallas that organizers hoped would raise $160,000 raised less than $100,000, he said.
The council does not disclose membership numbers.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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