Anti-War Activists Whose Homes Were Raided To Refuse Orders To Testify
By Michael Tarm
Associated Press via Common Dreams
October 5, 2010
CHICAGO - Anti-war activists whose homes or offices were
raided as part of an FBI terrorism funding investigation will
refuse to testify before a grand jury as ordered, in a show
of defiance that could land them in jail.
Attorneys for the 14 activists called to testify have
coordinated their responses since the Sept. 24 raids and have
agreed their clients won't testify, Melinda Power, an
attorney for a
Tuesday. Agents searched seven homes and one office in
"They feel grand juries are now, and have historically been,
a tool of harassment against activists", Power said.
Some of the anti-war activists won't testify because they
don't want to be complicit in what they see as an attempt to
stifle freedom of speech and assembly, said Jess Sundin,
"We feel like the reason we're being called and we're being
looked into is because of our very legitimate and
constitutionally protected work in the anti-war movement," she said.
About 50 peace activists protested Tuesday outside of the
Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, where the grand jury was
"We will not be silent," Stephanie Weiner told protesters.
She and her husband, Joe Iosbaker, were the two activists
whose home was raided in
Some subpoenas ordered activists to appear before Oct. 5.
Sundin, who was subpoenaed to appear on Oct. 12, said
activists sent separate letters to prosecutors indicating
they do not intend to testify.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the
Some legal observers say the activists could go to jail.
"There's no chance prosecutors will just let it slide if they
keep refusing," said Gal Pissetzky, a
no link to the case.
As a next step, the government could reissue subpoenas -
possibly this time with an offer of immunity. If the
activists decline to appear then, a judge could hold them in contempt.
A key issue is whether any of the activists are targets of
prosecutors or whether prosecutors merely consider them
witnesses against another primary target.
Just after the raids, FBI spokesman Steve Warfield said the
bureau was seeking evidence related to "activities concerning
the material support of terrorism."
But Sundin said no one has told activists who is or isn't the
focus of the investigation. She said that puts them all in
jeopardy of self-incrimination, she said.
"It's just you, and the prosecutor and the jury (at the grand
jury proceedings)," Sundin said. "So it is a very precarious
situation for anyone to put themselves in."
Meredith Aby, a Minnesotan who was subpoenaed to testify
Tuesday but did not make the trip to Chicago, also said the
grand-jury process was unfair.
"I think they are an incredibly repressive and undemocratic
tactic," she said.
Someone who is a target can refuse to testify under their
Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination without
risking a contempt charge, Pissetzky said. If they are
granted immunity, however, a grand jury witness is required
to answer questions, he said.
Activists who have spoken with reporters have denied giving
money to terrorist groups.
The homes of two other longtime
activists, Mick Kelly and Meredith Aby, were also among those
searched last month.
The warrant for Kelly's home sought evidence on travel he did
as part of his work for the
Organization and information on any travel to
Palestinian territories, Jordan,
Two groups use the name
one based in
years ago, and the
Kelly's subpoena also commanded him to bring records he might
have relating to the Middle East and
records of any payment provided to Hatem Abudayyeh.
The subpoena did not further identify Abudayyeh, but
FightBack! has interviewed and carried articles by a Hatem
Abudayyeh who's the executive director of the Chicago-based
Arab American Action Network.
Abudayyeh did not answer his office phone Tuesday and a
recorded message said the voicemail was full. A message left
on his cell voicemail was not returned. Several activists
said their cell phones had been confiscated by the FBI.
Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti in
contributed to this report.
© 2010 Associated Press