Beliefnet News

By Les Zaitz
Portland, Ore. (RNS) The traces of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation
Inc., the Islamic charity shut nearly three years for ties to terrorism,
are disappearing.
The camel, once a feature in local parades, died. The prayer house
on the outskirts of town was auctioned. The stockpile of religious books
now sitting in a storage locker dwindles as a lawyer gives them away.
Two of the group’s founders are overseas, fugitives from federal tax and
currency charges.
But the fight hasn’t gone out of the defunct charity’s supporters
and lawyers, who Monday (Aug. 6) sued to erase the government’s
designation of Al-Haramain as terrorist group. The case, filed in U.S.
District Court in Portland, also seeks an order to turn over the
charity’s cash and real estate, frozen in place since early 2004.
Reversing the government’s action would “remove the stain,” said Tom
Nelson, one of four lawyers in Portland and Washington, D.C., launching
the fight. He said the lawsuit is being financed by donations from Saudi
Arabia, where he said there is keen interest in the fate of the Oregon
The foundation, the U.S. branch of a similarly named Saudi Arabian
charity, formed in 1999 to distribute religious literature and operate
an Islamic prayer house. Treasury Department officials in September 2004
declared the charity was a terrorist organization with direct ties to
al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
The lawsuit maintains the government never produced evidence to back
up the terrorist designation. The government has given the charity only
its public record in the matter, including newspaper clippings, and has
withheld classified information that led to the terrorist designation.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration used the
designation to stop what it suspected was the flow of cash, supplies and
people from American-based Islamic charities to terrorist groups around
the world. Some of the country’s largest charities were put out of
business with little revealed about their alleged terrorist ties.
The Ashland charity claims what others have before — that it’s
unconstitutional for the government to shut down an organization based
on secret evidence and no hearing. So far, no Islamic charity has
succeeded in winning a court order clearing them of the terrorist
designation; four have tried using the same arguments.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service

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