Anti-war, International Solidarity Activists Refuse to Cooperate with Grand Jury
As activists thwart attempts to harass & intimidate, government must decide whether to grant immunity
Chicago, IL -- Several anti-war and international solidarity activists announced their refusal yesterday to testify before a grand jury convened in Chicago, allegedly investigating "material support" of groups the federal government has designated as "terrorists." The first of a set of hearings was scheduled to start October 5th, but the government withdrew the subpoenas in response to activists asserting their Fifth Amendment right, and now must consider whether to offer them immunity. According to the Associated Press, all of the 14 activists subpoenaed within the past two weeks are refusing to testify, a considerable setback for the federal government.
"We believe we have been targeted because of what we believe, what we say and who we know," said Stephanie Weiner, one of the subpoenaed activists refusing to cooperate with the grand jury. Denouncing the government's use of the grand jury as a "fishing expedition," and an attempt to intimidate activists, Weiner told a crowd rallying yesterday in front of the Dirksen Federal Building that "we will not be silent." Rallies were held yesterday in Chicago, Minneapolis and other U.S. cities to protest what activists are calling a "witch hunt."
Weiner and her husband, Joe Iosbaker, were among several members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization whose homes and offices were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Chicago and Minneapolis on September 24th. Additional activists have been questioned by the FBI in California, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin as part of the same investigation. The FBI seized computers, cell phones, organizational paperwork, and other personal items in the raids.
On the same day as the FBI raids, and on the following Monday, the federal government issued a total of 14 subpoenas to compel activists to testify before a federal grand jury, ostensibly investigating connections between anti-war and international solidarity activists, and groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which are designated "terrorist" organizations by the U.S. government.
International solidarity activists believe that the government is attempting to use a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, to derail and criminalize their efforts to support the liberation of Colombian and Palestinian people. Historically, the government has chosen to prosecute individuals and organizations that provide monetary support to groups designated as "terrorists," but the Humanitarian Law Project ruling interprets "material support" to even include political speech.
"Grand juries have been used for decades by the federal government as a tool of political repression," said Kris Hermes of the Grand Jury Resistance Project. "Grand juries conduct secret investigations, deprive legal counsel to those subpoenaed, and can jail you for refusing to testify," continued Hermes. "There is no place for politically motivated grand juries in a democratic society."
If the government chooses to offer immunity to the subpoenaed activists, and they still refuse to testify they can be charged with civil or criminal contempt. If found guilty of civil contempt, activists could be jailed up to the length of the grand jury, typically 18 months, in an attempt to coerce their testimony. A charge of criminal contempt, however, can result in a far longer sentence, the length of which is left to the court's discretion.
For further information: http://StopFBI.net/