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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/9/11

US Dept of Treasury Freezes Palestinian Solidarity Activist's Bank Accounts

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KEVIN: Hello, my name is Kevin Gosztola and I'm a writer for I'm a writer for I also am serving as an intern for The Nation magazine right now. And, I'd like to present to you an interview that I have done with Joe Iosbaker. He is a lead organizer in Chicago. He is one of twenty-three who have been targeted by the FBI, targeted because he is engaging in political action. And, I've been tracking this story since October when it began. You'll hear from Joe background on what he and twenty-two other people have been facing at the hands of a Grand Jury investigation, a fishing expedition. This might remind you of McCarthyism or maybe if you know your history the Palmer Raids. Joe, will remind you of that. But, really, I am bringing you this interview because over the weekend the activists were hit with another attack, an escalation on one of their own. Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian solidarity activist, he had his bank accounts frozen. Frozen. No charges. No real apparent legal reason to have his bank accounts frozen. But they were frozen. And so, listen to this interview here. This is Joe Iosbaker from Chicago discussing cases of FBI repression in Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater Midwest right now.

JOE: I think the last time I talked with you we had of the original 23 people who had been subpoenaed to the grand jury--I think the last time I talked to you three of them had been approached by the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald or by his office telling them that they were going to be called back to the Grand Jury. You know, all twenty-three of us have refused to testify, refused to cooperate with the Grand Jury. And then, those three were re-approached. And, while they were never given dates, there were meetings between our lawyers -- each one of them had a separate lawyer that each met with the US Attorney's office. And in those, the assistant US attorneys made it abundantly clear that they intended to go forward with this case. They had multiple indictments they were preparing to issue and that they intended to bring it to trial and that they are after convictions.

I think the last of those meetings was in early February. There were a few other visits to other activists that were related by the FBI, related to our case, in February and we figured we had no contact through the month of March. But, starting in February, our legal team said to us that they anticipated that the US Attorney's office would move on us April or shortly after.

Because we were anticipating an attack from them, we launch our "Pledge of Resistance" campaign. And if you go to there are over a thousand public signatures on the "Pledge of Resistance" statement. And the "Pledge of Resistance" simply states that in the event of one or some of us are indicted or there's the possibility too of being jailed for refusing to cooperate with the Grand Jury that there would be emergency protests and the person who pledges pledges to show up at the emergency protest. We have more signatures than are on the website. We've been gathering them on paper and data entry is slow. We have several thousand people who've signed that pledge.

What happened last Friday, Hatem Abudayyeh is one of the 23, Hatem Abudayyeh, whose home was raided. He's one of the main community leaders among Palestinians in Chicago. His bank accounts were frozen. So, apparently Hatem had gone to the bank on Friday and the ATM didn't work. He went to the bank on Saturday morning and he learned that not only is his joint account with his wife, their checking account and saving account, not only had they been frozen but his wife has a bank account that is separate from his and her bank account has been frozen by them. I have to tell you I don't know under what law they could be doing that because she is not a target of this investigation.

KEVIN: Now, have you been able to talk to anyone like a lawyer who can say why this might be happening and explain if there is any legal justification for what is happening to Hatem and Naima right now?

JOE: I have not spoken with a lawyer. And, I'm not a lawyer. For me, it just seems like there's no charges against Hatem or anyone. There's not even an investigation of Nema. For them to freeze her bank account, an account that doesn't even bear his name, I just -- I can't believe that there's a legal statute that allows them to do this. And to me it just sounds like more of the racist treatment that the Palestinians, that the Arab and Muslim communities receive at the hands of the FBI.

KEVIN: When Hatem goes out and speaks in public, what is it that he tells people the FBI or this Grand Jury alleges he is guilty of doing?

JOE: It's the same thing that is alleged of all of us. That we have "conspired to provide material support for foreign terrorist organizations." And what we have said is when this is over there will be no evidence of any funds having gone to any foreign terrorist organization. What the US Attorney's office has said to our lawyers in those discussions back in January and February is that delegations of human rights activists and Palestine solidarity activists traveled to the West Bank, made small contributions to the women's committee of Palestine -- I think their name is the Union of Palestinian Women's Committee.

My wife is a member of a group called the Palestine Solidarity Group. Every year for a decade or more they have sponsored human rights delegations to the West Bank (earlier, they had also gone to Gaza but not in recent years) to meet with the organizations of victims -- Human rights organizations, political prisoners, support groups, student organizations, unions, women's organizations, people who could describe living under occupation. And, the women's committee had served as the host. They provide the transportation. They provide falafels. They provide interpretation. They provide schedule of events and meetings. They are an NGO registered with the Palestinian Authority. They are not on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization list. They are not illegal in Israel. US Attorney is really fixated on small amounts of money paid to that committee to host these delegations.

KEVIN: I suspect that a number of people might be hearing about this story for the first time. I'm wondering if you could give some people some background. What should people know about your case, about the FBI repression activists have been going on. This goes on and there's not a lot of media attention. So, what should people know?

JOE: Alright, there's three things that we have to tell you.

The first one is that on September 24th, seven homes in Chicago and Minneapolis and one office of an antiwar committee in Minneapolis were raided by the FBI. The warrants and the subpoenas all indicated that they were looking for evidence of "material support for foreign terrorist organizations." The fourteen people that were subpoenaed in that group really has one thing in common: all fourteen of them, including my wife and I (our home was raided by the FBI), all fourteen of them had been key organizers in the protest at the Republican National Convention September 1, 2008. The Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, what it was called. Marches that were held were permitted marches.

We didn't know this on the morning of the raid and it took some time to learn this fact. In fact, we learned it from the office in Chicago, the office of the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, that the antiwar committee in the Twin Cities had been infiltrated by a law enforcement agent, had been infiltrated the FBI starting in April 2008 in the months organizing for the protest for the RNC. That protest was the largest antiwar protest in the history of the Midwest of the United States. Thirty thousand marched on the RNC on September 1st.

Apparently, that police agent and professional liar didn't find anything that was indictable. But then, she stuck around for two more years as an undercover cop spying on the antiwar movement. And we believe that it is her lies about us that were the basis for the raids in September and the subpoenas for a Grand Jury.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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