Pro-Palestinian group asks judge to block Virginia attorney general’s demand for documents

03/22/24 Reposted from

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A pro-Palestinian group based in Virginia wants a Richmond judge to limit what documents it must turn over to Attorney General Jason Miyares as his office investigates its fundraising and allegations that it indirectly supports Hamas.

Miyares is looking into whether the AJP Educational Foundation, Inc., a part of the northern Virginia-based group American Muslims for Palestine, violated the state’s charitable solicitation laws by asking for donations without properly registering with the state.

“In addition, the Attorney General will investigate allegations that the organization may have used funds raised for impermissible purposes under state law, including benefitting or providing support to terrorist organizations,” Miyares’ office said in a news release announcing the probe.

The AG’s office sent AMP a civil investigative demand seeking documents, including all IRS forms filed in the seven years since the group started taking donations in Virginia, and responses about its activities in the state and incorporation status.

An attorney for AMP said the group already handed over financial and other documents the AG’s office demanded for its probe into its fundraising and is now in compliance with the law, sharing a Jan. 11 letter from the state’s charitable and regulatory programs office to AJP that it received its registration statement and the group “is registered through May 15, 2024.”

But AMP — which criticized Miyares’ announcement as “not only defamatory, but dangerous” — believes the AG’s demands for other documents and information go beyond the scope of his authority and wants a Richmond Circuit Court judge to weigh in.

In a petition filed in Richmond court, AMP seeks a judge’s order to narrow the AG’s demand “to appropriate areas of focus within its purview,” specifically documents related to its fundraising activities and compliance with state law.

AMP understands that Miyares must do “the job of the AG,” Christina A. Jump, an attorney for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, told 8News, “but not a fishing exhibition with random allegations.”

In its petition, AMP claims the demand goes far beyond the purpose of Miyares’ investigation and his scope of authority by “improperly” seeking protected and extraneous donor information, details protected by attorney-client privilege, and information related to ongoing litigation “that has no bearing” on the AG’s probe.

Its petition also alleges that the AG’s demand improperly seeks info and documents related to “knowingly using or permitting” the use of funds raised to provide support to “terrorists, terrorist organizations, terrorist activities or family members of terrorists” because the AG “does not have an objective ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that AMP has any information related to any such alleged violation.”

Miyares’ announcement of the investigation cited a federal civil lawsuit that alleges AMP and other groups are disguised “alter egos” of groups that were found liable for “providing material support” to Hamas.

Those groups, the lawsuit claims, shuttered to avoid paying the parents of a man who was killed by Hamas the $156 million they were ordered to. The federal suit, which wants AMP to pay, alleges AMP and others named in the case “provide the same indirect support for Hamas” as the shuttered groups.

Jump, who represents AMP in the federal civil case in Illinois and the Richmond case, said that there’s no foundation for Miyares’ investigation into those alleged indirect ties to Hamas other than “a vague allegation without any connection.”

“Nothing has been proven” in that case, Jump told 8News, adding that AMP has not faced criminal charges from the Department of Justice and that all money it raises comes from and is spent in the United States.