US Dept of Treasury Freezes Activist’s Bank Accounts
*Scroll down for audio interview
Update – 3:10 PM New York Time
Here is the press release just out. It indicates that this is actually much more sinister than was thought initially. The Department of Treasury is actually behind the freezing of funds.
On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. It appears that this is being done by the Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control).
Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year. Neither Hatem Abudayyeh nor Naima Abudayyeh have been charged with any crime. One of the bank accounts frozen was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh’s name.
Joe Iosbaker of the National Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “We are appalled at the government’s attempt to restrict the family’s access to its finances. Not only does the government’s action seriously disrupt the lives of the Abudayyehs and their five-year-old daughter, but it represents an attack on Chicago’s Arab community and activist community and the fundamental rights of Americans to freedom of speech.”
Joe added, “Apparently OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation on charges of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” without a hearing. It’s a bit like a chapter out of George Orwell, they don’t need any evidence to freeze your assets and thus far they won’t even acknowledge that they are the source of the freeze. In the case of these activists, assets means money for food and rent.”
Bill Chambers, of the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression said “The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.”
The National Committee to Stop FBI repression is urging activists around the country to take action by calling, The Office of Foreign Assets Control a division of the U.S. Dept of Treasury, Phone numbers 202-622-1649 or 202-622-2420. Demand that they unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.”
***Original Story including audio interview with Joe Iosbaker appears below.***
Right before Mother’s Day weekend, the US government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a long-time Palestinian solidarity activist and organizer, and his wife, Naima. Abudayyeh is one of twenty-three activists from the Midwest in the US, who has been the subject of an FBI Grand Jury investigation since September of last year.
Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh have both been charged with no crimes. Naima Abudayyeh has not been subpoenaed and is not the subject of an investigation.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression in a statement on this development declare:
The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. There has been widespread criticism of the FBI and local law enforcement for their racial profiling and scapegoating of Arab and Muslim Americans. These repressive tactics include infiltration of community centers and mosques, entrapment of young men, and the prominent case of 11 students from the University of California campuses at Irvine and Riverside who have been subpoenaed to a grand jury and persecuted for disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the US. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.
I spoke with Joe Iosbaker, another one of the twenty-three who have been subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury. Iosbaker is a twenty year civil service employee at the University of Illionis at Chicago (UIC) and chief steward for the 1300 clerical workes in the Service Employees International Union Local 73.
To hear the interview, you can listen here. Or, click here . You will see an “episode” titled “Bank Accounts Frozen, Activists Targeted for Political Action.” Either click “listen” or “download.” You can also download this off of iTunes by searching for “CMN News.” The file with the above mentioned title should appear.
For those who do not want to or cannot listen, a transcript can be found here. I will not post in full here but these are few excerpts:
Iosbaker describes exactly what happened with Abudayyeh:
What happened last Friday, Hatem Abudayyeh is one of the 23, Hatem Abudayyeh, whose home was raided. He’s one of the main community leaders among Palestinians in Chicago. His bank accounts were frozen. So, apparently Hatem had gone to the bank on Friday and the ATM didn’t work. He went to the bank on Saturday morning and he learned that not only is his joint account with his wife, their checking account and saving account, not only had they been frozen but his wife has a bank account that is separate from his and her bank account has been frozen by them. I have to tell you I don’t know under what law they could be doing that because she is not a target of this investigation.
Iosbaker provides background on the FBI repression, for those who are unaware of this story:
…On September 24th, seven homes in Chicago and Minneapolis and one office of an antiwar committee in Minneapolis were raided by the FBI. The warrants and the subpoenas all indicated that they were looking for evidence of “material support for foreign terrorist organizations.” The fourteen people that were subpoenaed in that group really has one thing in common: all fourteen of them, including my wife and I (our home was raided by the FBI), all fourteen of them had been key organizers in the protest at the Republican National Convention September 1, 2008. The Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, what it was called. Marches that were held were permitted marches.
We didn’t know this on the morning of the raid and it took some time to learn this fact. In fact, we learned it from the office in Chicago, the office of the US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, that the antiwar committee in the Twin Cities had been infiltrated by a law enforcement agent, had been infiltrated the FBI starting in April 2008 in the months organizing for the protest for the RNC. That protest was the largest antiwar protest in the history of the Midwest of the United States. Thirty thousand marched on the RNC on September 1st.
Apparently, that police agent and professional liar didn’t find anything that was indictable. But then, she stuck around for two more years as an undercover cop spying on the antiwar movement. And we believe that it is her lies about us that were the basis for the raids in September and the subpoenas for a Grand Jury.
The second thing to tell you is that the Grand Jury — all twenty-three of us, there were fourteen subpoenaed in September — All fourteen of us refused to appear at the Grand Jury. The US Attorney then subpoenaed nine more people, mostly Palestinian Americans, in December. And those nine all refused to appear at a Grand Jury because we learned that the Grand Jury can indict a ham sandwich. It is not an unbiased process. It is a prosecutor’s dream. You have no right to have your lawyer present. You have no right to see the evidence being presented against you. You have no right to cross-examination of the witnesses. In fact, you have no right to see the witnesses.
We all realized it was just a witch-hunt and refused to participate in it. And there are consequences for that. All twenty-three of us for refusing could actually be imprisoned on contempt of court for refusing to participate in that grand jury.
Finally, here is what is so heart-wrenching and unjust about Abudayyeh being targeted:
The case of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife Naima they have a five-year old daughter. This is Mother’s Day weekend. Hatem’s not a doctor or a businessman. He’s a community activist. If I was him, I would be panicking about the loss of not being able to write checks. You know, I have all of my bills, all of them, plugged in to automatic bill pay. All of my bills will no longer be paid if I was in his situation. And, it’s Mother’s Day for goodness sake. It’s supposed to be a weekend where families —
I just want to tell you, my wife and I, Stephanie Weiner, have known Hatem since he was a college student. We’ve known his family for twenty years. Hatem and his parents were founding activists in the Palestinian community organizations forty years ago. Hatem is a family man. In fact, a lot of people don’t know this: Hatem and his wife, Nema, are the subject of a documentary called The New Americans” It was made by Kartemquin Films, the people who made Hoop Dreams. And it’s the property of PBS.org.