Ohio court rules freezing of charity's assets unconstitutional
[TamilNet, Saturday, 22 August 2009, 13:19 GMT]
Citing violatiaon of the fourth amendment that protects individuals and groups against unreasonable searches and seizures, the district court of Northern Ohio said Tuesday that the United States Department of Treasury had acted unconstitutionally three years ago when it froze the assets of KindHearts, an Ohio charity suspected of aiding terrorists, New York Times (NYT) reported.
"The ruling challenged a key tactic used by the [US] government under an emergency executive order signed by President George W. Bush two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. If upheld, the ruling could severely undercut the government’s authority and ultimately require it to get a warrant and submit to court review in moving against charities," NYT said.
James G. Carr, the chief federal judge, rejected the Justice Department’s contention that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to groups suspected of foreign terrorist ties because of the president’s separate national security authority.
Calling the fourth amendment to the US constitution as "a bulwark against the abuses and excesses of unchecked government authority,” Judge Carr said, “nothing in our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence or constitutional tradition supports complete elimination” of the need for the government to establish probable cause, allow judicial review and use court warrants in such cases."
Office of Foreign Asset Control, or OFAC, used its broadened authority to freeze tens of millions of dollars in assets held by eight charities within the United States and hundreds of other groups and individuals outside this country, all without warrants and court approval. Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) is also one of the Tamil run charities affected by OFAC's action.
The ruling has thrown into doubt one of the government’s main counterterrorism tools, and may have serious repercussions on the status of the other charities whose funds have similarly be frozen, legal sources said.
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