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Islamic charity fights asset freeze

Federal agents raid the Global Relief Foundation's office in December.
Federal agents raid the Global Relief Foundation's office in December.  

By Allan Dodds Frank
CNN Money

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- An Islamic charity accused by federal officials of providing financial assistance to terrorists went to court Monday to overturn a freeze on its assets imposed last December.

The Global Relief Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago alleging government officials have not made a sufficient legal case to block assets, seize property and documents or interfere with the group's operations.

The group asked for the release of $900,000 in assets and the return of computers, documents and equipment taken during a raid on its offices, in addition to an injunction to prevent further government action against it.

"Without access even to its own documents, GRF cannot possibly defend itself in any forum or court -- including even that of public opinion -- or respond in a meaningful way to actions against it," the suit said.

"Moreover, the GRF has received no notice of legal or factual basis for the government's actions."

On December 14, the Treasury Department blocked the assets of Global Relief and another group, the Benevolence International Foundation, on the grounds that the groups were providing financial assistance to terrorists.

Government agents raided Global Relief's offices in Bridgeview, Illinois, seizing equipment and documents.


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Last week, Treasury officials allowed Global Relief, Benevolence International and another Islamic group accused of terrorist financing, the Holy Land Foundation, to use some of their blocked funds to pay legal expenses.

Global Relief's lawyer, Roger Simmons, charged in the suit that the government's blocking of the assets was unconstitutional and was destroying the group's ability to perform charitable work.

The suit also alleged government officials were conducting a smear campaign against the group.

Among the defendants named in the suit were Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"We are confident that the government's action will be judged appropriate in this case," a Treasury Department spokesperson said in response to the suit.

The grounds for blocking Global Relief's funds would be disclosed in court, the spokesperson said.


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