LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Seven years ago, the federal government accused several Los Angeles residents of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization because of their work on behalf of a charity that assists victims of the current Iranian regime.
According to prosecutors, the charity has ties to the Mujahedin-e Khalq ('MEK'), which is on the U.S. State Department's list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).
Today, the seven defendants, who now face 117 charges in the case, filed 15 motions before Judge Robert M. Takasugi in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, requesting that all of the charges against them be dismissed.
Attorneys for the defendants say the government's action is deeply hypocritical, both because their clients were engaged in free speech activity and because the Bush Administration has itself provided support to the MEK for years.
'The prosecutor's attempt to charge our clients through its twisting and stretching of terrorism laws and other charges has resulted in this unprecedented set of pre-trial motions,' said Abbe Lowell, one of the attorneys representing the group. 'The defendants and their counsel hope the federal court will rule the prosecutors are the ones who broke the rules in bringing charges that violate their First Amendment right to free speech, their Sixth Amendment right to have all facts presented to a jury, their Due Process Clause right to a fair trial, their Equal Protection Clause right against selective prosecution, and many other basic protections.'
In the motions, defendants Roya Rahmani, Alireza Mohammadmoradi, Moustafa Ahmady, Hossein Kalani Afshari, Hassan Rezaie, Navid Taj and Mohammad Hossein Omidvar argue the following points, among others:
- That the Administration has violated their due process rights by prosecuting them for helping the MEK when the U.S. Government for years has worked with the group and even used them to assist troops in a camp in the Iraqi desert.
- That the prosecution violates the defendants' First Amendment rights by punishing them for supporting political advocacy and charitable work.
- That the charges violate both the statute of limitations and the defendants' right to a speedy trial, and that prosecutors misled the court in seeking to extend the statute of limitations for acts which they allege occurred as long ago as 1997.
Defense counsel in this case are Abbe D. Lowell from McDermott, Will & Emery, LLP, in Washington, DC representing Roya Rahmani and Los Angeles, CA based attorneys Michael S. Meza representing Alireza Mohammadmoradi; Richard M. Steingard of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP representing Mustafa Ahmady; Thomas Nishi representing Hossein Afshari; Jay L. Lichtman representing Hassan Rezaie; Amy Fan of Saint Martin & Fan representing Navid Taj; and Peter J. Eliasberg and Ahilan T. Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and William J. Genego of Nasatir Hirsch Podberesky and Genego representing Mohammad Omidvar.
A copy of a summary of the motions is included and the motions can be found at the McDermott, Will & Emery, LLP website.