CRIMINAL DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Criminalization of Free Speech and Charitable Giving

Congress passed a statute that has significantly impacted humanitarian aid to Muslim majority countries torn by war.

The Issue

In an effort to curb the funding of foreign terrorist organizations, Congress passed 18 USC 2339B–material support of a terrorist organization–in 1998. This statute prohibits any form of support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, including most forms of humanitarian aid and speech on behalf of the organization.

The statute was immediately challenged on constitutional grounds and after successful challenges, amended. The amended version was ultimately held up by the Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. The amended version prohibits all forms of aid, including humanitarian aid and speech that is either directed or coordinated with a terrorist organization. The chilling effect of the statute has significantly impacted humanitarian aid to Muslim majority countries torn by war. 

MLFA’s criminal defense department is committed to educating the public on the limitations of this statute and defense of independent speech and aid. To that extent, MLFA advises and defends charities providing humanitarian aid in foreign regions where designated foreign terrorist organizations are present. MLFA also defends individuals who are charged under 2339B based on their independent speech. 

For the past 20 years, MLFA has provided criminal defense in conjunction with advice concerning compliance with 18 USC 2339B–it is the only organization to do so. It is a national leader in this subject. Over the past 20 years, MLFA has represented more than 20 charities and more than 50 individuals charged with 23339B offenses.

Cases

Al-Mezain

IARA (Islamic African Relief Association)

Harcevic

Al-Arian

Giampietro

Fong

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