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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

Toledo Muslim charity sues U.S over frozen assets

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A local Muslim charity has sued three federal officials with the request that the more than 2 -year block on its financial assets be lifted while challenging the process used by the government in designating organizations as terrorist groups.

Kindhearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, Inc., filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Toledo. Listed as defendants are U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

According to the lawsuit, the Office of Foreign Assets Control froze the assets of the Toledo-based non-profit charity on Feb. 19, 2006. At the time, government officials cited the USA Patriot Act provision that authorizes assets to be frozen while an entity is being investigated as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist."

Since the freeze, the government had "provisionally determined" to designate KindHearts as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, although the group has never actually been officially labeled with the designation, the lawsuit said. Yet, the government has kept its assets frozen and has not given the group any meaningful way to challenge the designation.

The lawsuit challenges the freeze on its assets and the pending investigation as well as the whole process used by the government when dealing with organizations such as the charity. The complaint added that the government s actions have violated KindHeart s constitutional rights by undermining its ability to defend itself by controlling its financial assets.

Late Thursday, Judge James Carr granted a temporary restraining order barring the government from designating KindHearts as a terrorist group pending the length of the case. Attorneys for the organization said the order will allow the organization to have its day in court and prevent the government from evading the merits of the case by changing KindHeart s status.

"We asked to freeze the status quo," attorney Fritz Byers said, adding that attorneys wanted to ensure that the government could not designate KindHearts as a terrorist organization or take any other action "until the judge can look at merits of case."

"KindHearts, founded after several other Muslim charities were shut down in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did everything it could to ensure that it complied with Treasury Department guidelines, and conducted its operations in a transparent manner," the lawsuit said in an introduction.

"It provided humanitarian relief to refugees, displaced persons, and victims of poverty, war, and natural disasters around the world, but especially in Palestine and Lebanon. It did not support terrorism or terrorist organizations in any way," the complaint said. "Yet for more than two and a half years, its assets have been frozen, unavailable to it, or to the victims for whose aid it was provided."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of KindHearts by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and several civil rights lawyers who said the charity was targeted without being given due process.

"KindHearts, founded after several other Muslim charities were shut down in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did everything it could to ensure that it complied with Treasury Department guidelines, and conducted its operations in a transparent manner," the lawsuit said in an introduction.

"It provided humanitarian relief to refugees, displaced persons, and victims of poverty, war, and natural disasters around the world, but especially in Palestine and Lebanon. It did not support terrorism or terrorist organizations in any way," the complaint said. "Yet for more than two and a half years, its assets have been frozen, unavailable to it, or to the victims for whose aid it was provided."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of KindHearts by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and several civil rights lawyers who said the charity was targeted without being given due process.



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