Minneapolis, MN – Billed as a report back from the first national conference of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR), more than 50 people gathered for here Dec. 15 for an exciting event that featured veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes, a moving message from Noor Elashi and an important speech by anti-war leader Jess Sundin.
Carlos Montes, who spoke to the meeting via Skype from Los Angeles, related how the FBI orchestrated a raid on his home. He talked about his work organizing the massive march on the 2008 Republican National Convention and his encounter with the undercover law enforcement agent “Karen Sullivan,” whose lies led to FBI raids and grand jury subpoenas for anti-war and international solidarity activists.
Montes, who faces up to 18 years in prison on false charges that claim he violated state firearm laws, said that he took heart from the solidarity that he has received from across the country.
Noor Elashi sent a message to the meeting about her father Ghassan Elashi, who is one of the Holy Land Five. The Holy Land Foundation was one of the largest Muslim charities in the U.S. After a series of outrageously unjust court actions, her father is serving a 65-year sentence.
Speech by Jess Sundin
Jess Sundin, a member of the Twin Cites based Anti-War Committee and whose home was raided by the FBI stated in part,
“It has been almost 15 months since the FBI ransacked our homes and the AWC office, searching for evidence to charge us with material support to FTOs [Foreign Terrorist Organizations]. The Committee to Stop FBI Repression was organized to build a defense around those whose homes were raided last September and those who refused to testify before a grand jury investigating us. Last May, we took up the defense of Carlos Montes, who is fighting six felony charges that were concocted by the same FBI agents who are after us.”
Speaking of the need to push back around other cases of government repression, Sundin stated:
“When this all began, I did not understand how long we would be waiting. In the Holy Land case, their office was raided in December 2001, the indictments came in June 2004, and the convictions came in November 2008, after a hung jury in a trial in 2007. Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan, the two Somali women who were just convicted here in Minnesota, had a long wait too. Their homes were raided in July 2009, and they weren’t indicted until August 2010. They were being spied on even after the raids on their homes, with wiretapped phone calls. It seems likely that this is true for us too.
“Ours is not just a Minnesota case – according to documents the FBI mistakenly left behind after raiding Mick’s apartment, six FBI offices in states across the country are involved. We know that prosecutors in both Illinois and Minnesota have a hand in this case. Our case is complicated, so I guess this means they’ll take all the time they can to piece together a case against us. They have called in some high-powered help: We learned at our conference that the prosecutor who went after the Holy Land directors has moved to Chicago and now he is working on our case.
“Supporting Noor’s father is the right thing to do – he was a good man doing good work. I believe the same for Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan. None of them should be facing prison sentences for sending aid to homelands ravaged by U.S. policies of war and militarism. At the same time, learning about their cases can help us in our own defense. I learned from the Somali women’s case that the government is willing to go the distance for a mere $8600. No doubt millions were spent to investigate and prosecute them. Before their case, I thought, gee, could the proceeds of my daughter’s lemonade stand for the Palestinian daycares really get us into trouble? Now I wonder.
“The government is not really targeting people for a few dollars sent abroad. They are targeting us for our ideas. It is not a crime to be a Palestinian or a Muslim, any more than it is a crime to be an anti-war activist or a socialist. But in all these cases, our ideas have brought us into conflict with the U.S. imperialist agenda. The government wants to prosecute us for our thoughts, thought crimes. None of this should make me, or Ghassan Elashi or Carlos Montes, or any of us a criminal.”