[Ppnews] Chicago activist named in probe insists Palestinian trips had no terror link

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 8 10:14:19 EST 2011

AP Exclusive: Chicago activist named in probe 
insists Palestinian trips had no terror link

By Michael Tarm (CP)

CHICAGO ­ Four months after the FBI raided homes 
of anti-war activists in the Midwest, a 
Palestinian-American named in the probe is 
calling it a "witch hunt" and insisting in a 
series of interviews with The Associated Press 
that he has never given money to terrorist groups.

Hatem Abudayyeh, head of an activist network in 
Chicago that deals in immigration and 
discrimination issues, says the trips he helped 
co-ordinate to the Palestinian territories were 
fact-finding and educational visits hosted by a 
women's organization and that he knew of no links 
to groups that could be considered involved in terrorism.

The federal government has divulged almost 
nothing about the focus of the probe, which 
included subpoenas demanding Abudayyeh and 22 
other activists from Chicago, Minneapolis and 
Grand Rapids, Michigan, appear before a grand 
jury. A line in one Minneapolis subpoena says 
agents were looking for evidence of money paid 
"directly or indirectly" to Abudayyeh.

Abudayyeh says the trips were designed for 
left-wing activists who support the Palestinians' 
long battle to have their own homeland and who 
paid money to the Palestinian women's 
organization. That organization has links to a 
small, Marxist-oriented organization called the 
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, 
which was named in the subpoenas and is on the U.S. list of terrorist groups.

Abudayyeh, 39, says his knowledge of the 
Palestinian women's group is limited to its 
social work, such as establishing kindergartens and day cares.

"We don't know of any links to anybody else," he said.

Abudayyeh has not been accused of any wrongdoing, 
nor have the 22 other activists. A spokesman for 
the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago, Randall 
Samborn, refused to comment about the ongoing investigation.

Last week, nine of the subpoenaed activists were 
scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury. 
But like the others, they refused to comply, 
risking being held in contempt of court. They 
condemn the raids and subpoenas as FBI harassment 
and an attempt to stifle their rights to free 
speech and assembly, and they have held several 
vocal protests outside federal office buildings.

The federal law cited in the search warrants 
prohibits giving "material support or resources" 
to nearly 50 organizations on the U.S. State Department's terrorism list.

Abudayyeh said he arranged the trips through the 
Chicago-based Palestine Solidarity Group, which 
he co-founded. It sent roughly 70 activists over 
the past nine years to the West Bank, Gaza and to 
parts of Israel with large Palestinian populations.

His group paid money to a group hosting the 
visits called the Union of Palestinian Women's 
Committees. But he said the cash was only for 
accommodation, food and transportation ­ or, he 
said, no more than $50 per person a day during the two week tours.

"No money was ever just plopped in front of anybody," he said.

Abudayyeh said the trips aimed to help activists 
learn "firsthand that U.S tax dollars support the 
illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine."

Jess Sundin, whose home in Minnesota was raided, 
said she and others raised small sums of money 
for the Union of Palestinian Women's Committee's 
social work; her daughter even set up a lemonade 
stand to raise a few dollars in the effort.

"That's the only fundraising that anybody did for 
organizations in Palestine," said Sundin, of the 
left-wing Anti-War Committee, who said members of 
the Women's Committees would take time from their 
work to show visitors around. "What we were 
funding was their work, which was very public, which was not illegal."

The Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, also 
known as the UPWC, was founded in the 1980s by 
women sympathetic to the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, according to 
Joost Hiltermann, a Middle East analyst with the 
Washington-based International Crisis Group. He 
said the UPCW has an "ideological" affinity" with 
the PFLP, but experts said that the women's group 
was not linked to the front's militant activities.

The PFLP has a political arm with elected members 
in the Palestinian legislature but also a 
militant wing that occasionally claims 
responsibility for Palestinian rocket fire on 
Israelis. PFLP gunmen assassinated an Israeli 
cabinet minister in 2001, and the group staged a 
number of hijackings and other violent acts 
against Israelis going back to the 1960s.

A Popular Front legislator in the West Bank, 
Khalida Jarar, denies any financial ties between 
his openly militant group and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees.

"The Union supports the PFLP political and social 
approach, but there is no money linkage between 
both of them," he told the Associated Press in an interview in Ramallah.

But others say such Palestinian groups sometimes 
disguise ties to militants, in part not to scare 
away potential donors. "They specifically set up 
groups to confuse and subvert," said E.J. 
Kimball, a former staff director for the House Anti-Terrorism Caucus.

Abudayyeh, a Chicago native, has served as 
executive director of the Arab American Action 
Network ­ a non-profit group that advocates for 
new immigrants and tries to combat anti-Muslim prejudice.

He said he attended a White House briefing on 
civil rights and immigration with dozens of other 
Arab-Americans last April. The attendee list was 
submitted by a non-governmental institute.

During the Sept. 24 raid on Abudayyeh's condo, 
agents copied his computer hard drive and seized 
bank records and even photos of a trip his wife 
and daughter took to the Palestinian areas.

The federal attention has unnerved him, he says, 
in part because refusal to testify could lead to 
jail time. Even his 5-year-old is unsettled by memories of the FBI's dawn raid.

"To this day, she still jumps into my or my 
wife's arms when she hears a loud wrap on the door," he said.


Associated Press Writers Amy Forliti in 
Minneapolis and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, 
West Bank, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved

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