Friday, September 7, 2012

AFSC and ADC Join Lawsuit Challenging Restrictions on Right to Advocate

Our member groups the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) have joined a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s restrictions on their First Amendment rights to engage in “coordinated advocacy” with Muhammad A. Salah. 

Muhammad Salah
(Tannen Maury / EPA/Newscom)
Salah is a Palestinian American and is the only U.S. citizen residing in the United States who is currently labeled a “Specially Designated Terrorist” by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. This designation means people and organizations are prohibited from engaging in coordinated speech with him, even if only to express concerns about the government’s conduct. 

The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), challenges the constitutionality of the “terrorist” designation of Salah and the unprecedented restrictions that come with it. From the CCR press release
"Under the restrictions, which bar virtually all economic transactions, even those necessary for survival, Muhammad Salah is not permitted to get a job, pay rent or a mortgage, pay for his children’s education, obtain medical care or even buy a loaf of bread without first obtaining approval from the Treasury Department."
Salah was classified by the Treasury Department as a “specially designated terrorist,” under Executive Order 12947, signed by then President Bill Clinton in 1995. He received no notice of charges against him and there was no trial or hearing. In fact, at the time, Salah was incarcerated in an Israeli military prison, charged by an Israeli military court with providing support to Hamas in the early 1990s. As CCR points out: 
"At the time, no law barred Americans from supporting Hamas. Following 55 days of intense interrogation, including sleep deprivation and physical brutality, Mr. Salah pled guilty to the charge and entered into a plea agreement. He was released in 1997 and returned to his home in the United States."
Eight years later, in 2005, the U.S. government charged Salah in a criminal trial with supporting Hamas. A jury acquitted him, yet his designation as a “specially designated terrorist” remains. 

In their press release, AFSC and ADC explained that they are "challenging the government’s power to impose arbitrary restrictions on our First Amendment rights to follow our conscience and raise public awareness about government actions we believe to be unjust." Both groups are unable to coordinate their activities with Salah and advocate on his behalf due to the government's restrictions.  

You can read more about Salah's case here: "US sued over 'terrorist' designation that has robbed Palestinian American of basic rights for 17 years."