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Islamic charity's defamation suit dismissed

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Islamic charity’s defamation suit dismissed

  • A federal judge said none of the media defendants named in the suit defamed the charity group when they reported on a government investigation into ties to terrorism.

Feb. 26, 2003 — A federal judge Wednesday dismissed a defamation suit filed against six news organizations and eight reporters by a U.S.-based Islamic charity that was the subject of a government investigation into supporters of terrorism.

The suit was brought in November 2001 by the Global Relief Foundation following reports by the news organizations that the government was investigating the charity to determine whether it was providing funds to terrorists.

The group, which denies it has supported terrorism, claimed it lost potential donors after the reports. The foundation says it raises funds for charitable activities for Muslims in the United States and abroad.

Each of the defendant news organizations published a report at some point between Sept. 24 and Nov. 7, 2001 referring to a government investigation into Global Relief’s funds.

Global Relief argued that the gist of the reports was that the group was guilty of diverting money to Osama bin Laden and Hamas.

U.S. District Judge David Coar said the media defendants — which included The New York Times, The Associate Press, ABC, The (New York) Daily News, Hearst Communications and The Boston Globe — reported accurately on the investigation and did not defame Global Relief.

“The defendants never stated that GRF was linked to terrorist organizations,” the court wrote. “They merely reported that the government alleged or suspected that GRF provided financial support to terrorism. They did not present their own evidence of GRF wrongdoing, purport to ‘impute guilt to plaintiff,’ or seek to ‘build a case against GRF’ as GRF contends.”

The court said affidavits from FBI Special Agent Brent Potter and Treasury Department official R. Richard Newcomb proved that Global Relief was in fact under investigation for possible links to terrorism at the time of the news reports.

According to the court, in December 2001 the FBI conducted a search of Global Relief’s Illinois offices, and the Department of Treasury issued an order blocking the group’s funds. In October 2002, the Treasury Department designated Global Relief a “specially designated global terrorist.”

(Global Relief Foundation, Inc. v. New York Times Co.) WT

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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