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U.S. lawyers ask IARA suit be dismissed

The Columbia charity’s motion
to unfreeze assets is still pending.
Thursday, March 24, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Government lawyers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by a Missouri charity accused of having terrorist ties.

The Islamic American Relief Agency is seeking to have its assets unfrozen. The assets were frozen in October after federal agents raided the charity’s headquarters in Columbia as part of a criminal investigation. The Treasury Department also made it illegal for people to send contributions to the charity.

Shereef Akeel, a Michigan attorney representing the charity, said the government has not shown any evidence that the money raised by the charity had gone to support terrorism.

“The records are void of a single document that shows IARA-USA did anything wrong,” Akeel said. Akeel said the charity would respond to the government’s motion by April 18. He also said that a motion to unblock the charity’s property, which was filed in response to a Feb. 19 ruling that denied a previous request to unfreeze assets, was still pending.

In its lawsuit, the charity asks the government to remove any information in its files that links it to the other charities and to issue a statement clearing the relief agency of wrongdoing.

But in its motion to dismiss the charity’s lawsuit, government lawyers submitted a 36-page document they say contains undisputed proof the charity has links to terrorism.

Treasury officials claim the charity was the U.S. affiliate of a Sudanese charity, the Islamic African Relief Agency, which is accused of supporting al-Qaida and its predecessor, Maktab al-Khidamat.

Affidavits from charity board members and a St. Louis lawyer, Eric Vickers, who founded the charity in 1985, deny that the Missouri charity was controlled by the Sudanese group.

On Friday, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control rejected an appeal from the charity to have its assets unfrozen.

“While IARA-USA claims to be independent and unaffiliated with any other organization, the totality of the record ... reinforces OFAC’s determination that IARA-USA’s designation was appropriate and that the organization’s assets with the United States jurisdiction should remain blocked,” OFAC director Robert Werner wrote in a letter to Akeel denying the lawyer’s request.

Missourian reporter Jen Myers contributed to this report.


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