LOS ANGELES (July 16, 2008) — Seven present or former Los Angeles residents accused of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization because of their work on behalf of a charity that assists victims of the current Iranian regime, filed 15 different motions late Tuesday afternoon in U. S. District Court requesting that all charges against them be dismissed. Since early 2001, the group has been under indictment for allegedly providing material support to the Mujahedin-e Khalq ("MEK"), one of the U.S. State Department's designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations ("FTO").
In the motions, filed with Senior Judge Robert M. Takasugi of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, attorneys for the defendants say the government's action is deeply hypocritical, both because their clients were engaged in free speech activity and because the Bush Administration has itself provided support to the MEK for years.
In an unprecedented number and scope of pre-trial motions, the individual defendants Roya Rahmani, Alireza Mohammadmoradi, Moustafa Ahmady, Hossein Kalani Afshari, Hassan Rezaie, Navid Taj and Mohammad Hossein Omidvar are asking the federal court to dismiss the case on the following grounds:
1) that they have been selectively prosecuted because the pro-democracy group they are alleged to have helped and which opposes the totalitarian and fundamentalist regime in Iran has challenged its designation as a terrorist organization and has been able to enlist the support of more than 200 Members of Congress, embarrassing the Administration;
2) that the Administration is violating their due process rights by prosecuting them for allegedly helping the MEK when the U.S. Government has been supporting and continues to support the MEK, especially with respect to that group's camp in the Iraqi desert where the MEK has been assisting U.S. troops;
3) that the charges filed after the designation of the MEK was struck down by a D.C. federal appellate court in 2001 amount to an unconstitutional ex post facto prosecution;
4) that the prosecution – which does not distinguish between supporting the MEK's opposition to the Iranian government and actually providing any funds for terrorist acts – violates the defendants' First Amendment protections;
5) that the prosecutors misled the lower courts in seeking delays to the statute of limitations for acts which the government alleges occurred as long ago as 1997 and that the charges violate both the statute of limitations and the defendants' right to a speedy trial;
6) that the prosecutors did not take any steps to insure that the grand jury who heard the evidence was unbiased against Iranians, even those who opposed the present government; and
7) that a number of the charges misstate the law or offense being alleged or seek to create new crimes that have not been passed by Congress.
Counsel for defendant Rahmani, Abbe D. Lowell, of the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery, speaking for defense counsel (whose names and clients are identified at the end of this release) said: "The prosecutors' attempt to charge our clients, who are accused of helping a group opposed to the current Iranian regime, through an unprecedented twisting and stretching of the laws against terrorism and other charges has resulted in this unprecedented set of pre-trial motions. All of the defendants and their counsel are hoping that the federal court will rule that the prosecutors are the ones who violated the rules in bringing charges that violate the First Amendment right to free speech, the Sixth Amendment right to have all facts presented to a jury, the Due Process Clause right to a fair trial, the Equal Protection Clause right against selective prosecution, and numerous other protections given to all people in our country."
In 2002, the federal judge before whom the charges are pending dismissed what was then the prosecutor's original indictment on the grounds that it did not conform to a different assertion of First Amendment rights. In 2006, a split Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and reinstated the charges. Since the first challenge, the prosecutors have amended the original charges twice, now presenting 117 counts. The challenges in the motions being filed today have not been heard or decided by the trial or appellate court before. If the charges are not dismissed, trial is now scheduled for April 2009, more than a full eight years after the defendants were first arrested.
Defense counsel in this case are Abbe D. Lowell from McDermott Will & Emery, LLP, in Washington, DC, representing Roya Rahmani and Los Angeles, CA based attorneys Michael S. Meza representing Alireza Mohammadmoradi; Richard M. Steingard of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP representing Mustafa Ahmady; Thomas Nishi representing Hossein Kalani Afshari; Jay L. Lichtman representing Hassan Rezaie; Amy Fan of Saint Martin & Fan representing Navid Taj; and Peter J. Eliasberg and Ahilan T. Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and William J. Genego of Nasatir Hirsch Podberesky and Genego representing Mohammad Hossein Omidvar.
A copy of a summary of the motions is included and the motions can be found here.