MLFA Troubled by Court's Decision to Not Hear Sixth Amendment Case
The civil liberties legal fund will continue fighting for everyone's right to a fair trial in America
DALLAS, October 29, 2012 – Representatives from the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a civil liberties legal fund, are deeply troubled the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to not hear the Elashi et al. v United States case that involves challenges to the Sixth Amendment right of the people to face witnesses in courts of law. Attorneys for the five defendants and representatives from MLFA are evaluating all remaining options and will announce a decision on how they will proceed soon.
The case involves five men associated with the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the largest Muslim American charity until it was shut down on December 4, 2001, by presidential executive order and without due process. The charity's offices were raided by federal agents, who seized all documents, assets and funds of the organization as well as personal property of employees.
After prosecutors found that all funds raised by the charity went to humanitarian aid and that there were no illegal financial transactions from HLF, they employed the "material support" statute as amended by the USA Patriot Act – a statute that civil liberty advocates call dangerously vague – to charge the five men with indirectly supporting terrorism through their legal charitable work. The prosecution's argument was that committees used to distribute aid were "under the influence" of HAMAS – despite the fact that none of the committees were on the government's list of banned foreign organizations and were used by other charities distributing humanitarian aid in the region.
The defendants faced two trials. The first ended in no convictions, but the judge ruled it a mistrial and granted prosecutors another opportunity to put the five men on trial. The second trial ended in convictions, with the key witness for the prosecution being an anonymous expert who defense attorneys were unable to adequately cross examine – a fact at odds with the Sixth Amendment. MLFA funded the defense, appeal and U.S. Supreme Court petition due to the significance the case has on the future of civil liberties for everyone in America. Representatives from the legal fund are gravely concerned over the court's decision to not hear the case.
"It is a dark day for America when our nation's highest court refuses to hear a case that is affecting everyone's ability to get a fair trial in America," said Khalil Meek, Executive Director of MLFA. "If judges are allowed to prevent defenders from challenging the credibility of expert witnesses, then our Sixth Amendment loses its teeth and our civil liberties suffer further erosion."
The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is a national civil liberties legal fund that defends the U.S. Bill of Rights by supporting legal cases involving civil liberty encroachments. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, due process of law and many of our nation's civil liberties. To learn more about MLFA, visit www.mlfa.org.