Federal Appeals Court Rebuffs Islamic Charity in Secret-Evidence Case

A federal appeals panel has refused to stop a judge from considering secret evidence against an Islamic charity whose assets were frozen during the government's terrorism investigation.

The decision came late Thursday in a lawsuit filed by the Global Relief Foundation, which is trying to regain control of its assets and an estimated 500,000 pages of records seized in a Dec. 14 government raid.

U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen is preparing to view secret evidence offered by the government in an effort to have the suit dismissed. The government says national security would be jeopardized if the evidence were to become public.

A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Global Relief's request was premature and there would be plenty of time to appeal after Andersen decides the case.

The classified evidence has been shown only to the judge without Global Relief's lawyers present.

"I'm not surprised, I'm not discouraged, I'm not elated," said Global Relief attorney Roger Simmons. "This is one more skirmish in a long battle."

Global Relief denies it has anything to do with terrorism. But the government says it has evidence the group has had contact with Wadih El-Hage, a former personal secretary to Usama bin Laden.

The government is due to file papers Tuesday explaining why it must use secret evidence against another Islamic charity, Benevolence International Foundation. Both charities are based in suburban Chicago.

Benevolence International's assets were also frozen Dec. 14 and the group has filed a similar suit.