US court declines to review anti-terrorism law

WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) – The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal by seven people charged with raising money for an Iranian opposition group dubbed a "foreign terrorist organization" by the U.S. government.

Without comment, the justices denied the appeal by the Los Angeles area residents accused of soliciting money for the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which has carried the designation since 1977.

Only the groups themselves may seek judicial review in challenging such a designation, according to the 1996 anti-terrorism law.

Lawyers for the defendants had argued the government may not prosecute them while prohibiting them from showing that the group had been improperly designated and that the solicitations were protected by the First Amendment.

They argued the Iranian opposition group was not a terrorist organization and they had First Amendment rights to contribute to it.

The group was formed in the 1960s to overthrow the Iranian government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was involved in taking U.S. Embassy staff in Tehran hostage in 1979, but later its members, dissatisfied with the clerical government that had taken power after the shah was toppled earlier in 1979, fled Iran and resettled in Iraq.

The defendants were accused of providing "material support" to the group from 1997 to 2001 by soliciting contributions at the Los Angeles International Airport and sending at least several hundred thousand dollars to the group in Turkey.

A federal judge initially struck down the law as unconstitutional because it did not allow individuals to challenge the terrorism designation.

But a U.S. appeals court disagreed and upheld the law.

The U.S. Justice Department said the Supreme Court should not consider the case now. If the defendants are convicted, they can reassert their current challenge to the law, along with any other claims, the department said.

 Reuters, January 08, 2007

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