By SUSAN SAULNY / New York Times
June 1, 2001
State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer asked a Supreme Court justice in Manhattan yesterday to compel one of the largest Muslim charities in the country to comply with a subpoena his office issued eight months ago, saying the charity could have ties to the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
Mr. Spitzer’s office began an investigation of fund-raising by the charity, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, in June 2000 after receiving information from government sources.
Court papers state that Holy Land is collecting and allocating money in ways not properly disclosed to the state. When the foundation registered in July 1997 to solicit funds in New York, it said it would do so only by collection boxes, Mr. Spitzer said, but the group also seeks contributions over the Internet and provides a bank account number to allow electronic deposits, he said.
The subpoena sought a list of who received aid from the group, and any pending court cases against it.
Government investigators said last year that they suspected two Islamic relief groups, one of them Holy Land Foundation, of moving men, money and weapons across borders. Federal officials have said Holy Land Foundation provides support to families of suicide bombers.
The State Department said last year that the foundation has ties to Hamas, a Mideast group that has taken credit for suicide bombings.
Holy Land, which is based in Richardson, Tex., has repeatedly said it is not affiliated with Hamas or any terrorist group. It says it raises about $6 million annually for the poor, mostly in the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank organization led by Yasir Arafat.
Mr. Spitzer said that Holy Land failed to respond to four requests from his office, including the subpoena.
But a lawyer for Holy Land, Mark MacDougall in the Washington office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a law firm based in Dallas, said the group was cooperating with the attorney general’s office.
”We haven’t yet seen the petition filed by the attorney general’s office today, and so we can’t respond to any specific allegations,” Mr. MacDougall said. ”The foundation will, of course, file an appropriate answer and take whatever steps may be necessary to protect its interest.”