IARA waits for ruling on assets

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Islamic American Relief Agency will have to wait at least two more weeks for a judge to determine whether the agency can regain control of its assets and resume its work.

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton presided over a hearing Friday in Washington, D.C., on a motion to release the charity’s assets. The hearing ended without a decision being handed down.

Based on what the U.S. Department of Justice presented at the hearing, there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the charity, said the group’s lawyer Shereef Akeel.

He said Walton asked Justice Department attorneys Andrea Gacki and Carlton Greene whether they had any more evidence.

“From what they have presented so far, not a penny has been used improperly,” Akeel said.

Gacki and Greene responded that they have more evidence but said it is classified and that they would have to go through the proper channels to use it, Akeel said. Charles Miller, spokesman for the Civil Division of the Justice Department, could not confirm whether evidence would be declassified to present to Walton.

The judge seemed to appreciate the hardship of the agency’s current position, Akeel said.

Walton asked whether the agency was suffering “irreparable harm” waiting for its assets to be unblocked, Akeel said. When Akeel responded affirmatively, Walton gave the Justice Department until Feb. 14 to produce more evidence. At that time, Walton will have an in-camera inspection, meaning he will view the evidence alone in his chambers. Three days after that, both parties will participate in oral arguments. Walton would not comment Monday because the case is still pending before him.

Akeel said a closed viewing would put the charity at a disadvantage, because he can’t address specific concerns raised by the evidence, which he will not be able to see.

“I can only respond to what I know,” he said. “It’s trying to prove a negative — proving that you didn’t do it.”

Miller said he couldn’t comment on the hearing in advance.

The charity was slightly disappointed that not even a portion of the funds was released, Akeel said. They were willing to be monitored by a third party to ensure that funds were being used correctly, he said.

“We thought it was a reasonable suggestion to continue the charity’s work,” Akeel said.

Last week, Akeel characterized the agency as being “on the brink of extinction.” The agency has been nonoperational since being named a “specially designated global terrorist” on Oct. 13, a decision that led to search-and-seizure operations by the Departments of Justice and Treasury and 11 other agencies.

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