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Appeals court denies rehearing on terror indictments


Seven Los Angeles area residents indicted on accusations of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a terror organization lost a federal court challenge in a bid to prove their innocence.

The seven wanted to challenge a determination by the State Department that a group they funded was a terror organization.

The seven allegedly provided money to the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which "participated in various terrorist activities against the Iranian regime" and "carried out terrorist activities with the support of Saddam Hussein’s regime," according to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The San Francisco-based appeals court in 2004 first ruled against the seven and on Monday let the decision stand without a rehearing.

A 1996 law makes it illegal to give money to organizations the State Department has linked to terrorism. Rarely used before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law has since been used to win terror convictions.

The defendants claimed the law violated their First Amendment right to contribute money to groups they claim are not terror organizations, and they argued they should be allowed to prove the groups did not belong on the State Department’s list.

In 2002, U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi invalidated the law, saying it did not provide the groups a proper forum to contest their terror designations.

On Monday, the 9th Circuit said those accused of supporting the listed groups cannot challenge the list. Lawyers for those indicted asked the appeals court to review the 2004 decision with a panel of 15 judges, which the San Francisco-based appeals court declined.

Judge Alex Kozinski voted to rehear the case, writing that determining whether an organization is engaged in terrorism is crucial. Kozinski said the prosecution in the case runs contrary to "two of our defining traditions," free expression and justice.

The Associated Press, Apr. 18, 2006

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