- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004


The Supreme Court refused yesterday to reinstate a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s decision to freeze assets of a Muslim charity accused of financing the militant Islamic group Hamas.

The high court did not comment in rejecting an appeal from the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based group shut down in December 2001. A federal appeals court ruled last year that the Treasury Department had ample evidence linking Holy Land to terrorism.

The Supreme Court’s action was a victory for the Bush administration, which has kept secret some of the documentation it says shows the group’s terrorist links.

Attorneys for Holy Land denied any support for Hamas.

“To this day, no court has required the government to present a single live witness or sworn statement supporting its contention that HLF, once this nation’s largest Muslim charity, funds the terrorist group Hamas,” the attorneys wrote in their Supreme Court appeal.

Holy Land says it provides relief to refugees, orphans and victims of human and natural disasters, and that it has never donated money or provided services to Hamas, a group blamed for orchestrating suicide bombings in Israel. The State Department lists Hamas in its roster of foreign terrorist organizations.

The Bush administration also froze assets of two other Islamic charities suspected of funding terrorists, the Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolence International Foundation, for a total of between $5 million and $7 million.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Global Relief last year.

Also on Monday, the court agreed to hear another case testing rules for defense lawyers in death-penalty cases. Joe Elton Nixon’s attorney told the jury his client was guilty, and focused on trying to persuade jurors not to sentence Nixon to death.

Nixon was convicted in the 1984 murder of a woman he met at a Florida mall. Prosecutors said he tied the woman to trees with jumper cables and set her on fire.

The defense strategy failed, and the jury sentenced Nixon to death. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the lawyer did not effectively represent Nixon, because Nixon did not explicitly agree to the strategy.

“The Florida Supreme Court failed to give any deference to trial counsel’s ‘strategic choices’ or to his evaluation of the risks of contesting guilt when the evidence of guilt was overwhelming,” state attorneys told justices in a filing.

In other action yesterday, the court:

• Considered special rules for interrogating juveniles as part of a case that will clarify the landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling, which requires that law enforcement officers warn people who are in custody that they have a right to remain silent and to see a lawyer.

• Let stand rulings that allow American Indian tribal casinos to install electronic gaming devices similar to slot machines.

• Refused to hear an appeal in the case of a black maid fatally shot on a Florida roadside 40 years ago. Lower courts had dismissed lawsuits by the victim’s family after finding no proof that its civil rights had been violated at the time of the killing.

• Agreed to consider whether state prisons may separate new inmates by race as a safety measure.

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