Skip to comments.Warrants for Two Islamic Charities [CHICAGO-KOSOVO CONNECTION!]
Posted on 12/15/2001 6:33:06 AM PST by oxi-nato
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) - Federal agents armed with search warrants scoured the offices of two suburban Chicago Muslim organizations that government officials say are suspected of funding terrorist activities. The Global Relief Foundation in Bridgeview and the Benevolence International Foundation in Palos Hills were searched Friday, FBI spokeswoman Ebony Harrel said. No one was arrested.
As the same time, two Global Relief Foundation offices in Yugoslavia were searched by NATO-led peacekeepers and U.N. police. A NATO statement said several people were detained there, but it gave no details. Both groups' assets have been frozen, the Treasury Department said. Department spokesman Tony Fratto said early Saturday that ``there was coordinated action to block the assets because the groups are suspected of funding terrorist activities.''
At the Global Relief Foundation in Illinois, agents removed furniture and fixtures as well as documents, computer tapes and receipts, said Asim Ghafoor, a foundation spokesman. He said the agents were there from 9:30 a.m. until after 6 p.m. Friday. Global Relief Foundations issued a statement denying any link to terrorist activities. ``If they're investigating terrorism, they're not going to find anything here,'' said Roger Simmons, an attorney for Global Relief.
Whatever the government is doing ``is a terrible, terrible, terrible, tragic mistake,'' he said. A message left at the Benevolence International Foundation on Friday night was not immediately returned.
Global Relief's statement lamented the seizure of resources used to prevent ``the slow starvation and gruesome death in parts of the Muslim world that rely on such badly needed aid.'' ``We are in the business of helping innocent civilians and take every precaution to ensure our aid does not go to support or subsidize any nefarious activity.
Officials said the Chicago searches were conducted by the Treasury Department, the FBI and the Customs Department. The search warrants were sealed. Fratto cited the Patriot Act, signed Oct. 26 by President Bush, which gave federal agents broad powers to detain immigrants, eavesdrop on telephone calls and e-mail, and share sensitive details of criminal investigations with the CIA. Ghafoor said the organization was shown only a ``sanitized'' version of the search warrant that didn't explain the basis for the search or seizure of property. ``What they were after and why they were after it is in a classified document that we were never shown,'' Ghafoor said.
In October, the Global Relief Foundation denied published reports that it had ties to terrorist organizations. The Associated Press reported in October that two government sources who spoke on the condition they not be identified said the organizations were two of three U.S.-based Islamic aid groups under close federal scrutiny.
The NATO statement about the raids on Global Relief offices in Yugoslavia said peacekeepers and U.N. police had received credible information that members may have been directly involved in supporting terrorism. ``It is suspected of supporting worldwide terrorist activities and is allegedly involved in planning attacks against targets in the USA and Europe,'' the statement said.
Global Relief Foundation raises about $5 million a year for programs in mainly Muslim countries around the world. It did not appear on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of 39 organizations and individuals whose assets were being frozen because of their alleged ties to terrorism. Last week, federal agents raided the Bridgeview offices of another Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Authorities said the Texas-based charity is believed to be a front that raises money for the terrorist group Hamas. The organization denies the allegation.
It is in Serbia proper. Part of Serbia under KFOR rule.