Court: U.S. improperly took Al-Haramain assets

A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. government rightly designated the Ashland-based branch of a Saudi Arabia-based charity as a terrorist organization, but improperly seized the group's assets.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Friday the Treasury Department correctly placed the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation on an official list of terrorist organizations in 2004 because the group had financed terrorist activities in Chechnya and Albania.

The department also designated an unnamed member of the group's board members as linked to terrorism.

The foundation was disbanded after the department froze its assets.

The unanimous three-judge panel found the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control violated the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure by improperly using a "blocking order" to freeze the charity's assets without a warrant.

Former Ashlander Pete Seda was a member of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. His sentencing on money-laundering and tax-cheat charges related to Al-Haramain activities is set for Sept. 27.

Seda was convicted on the federal felony charges for helping smuggle $150,000 through his Ashland-based Al-Haramain chapter to Muslims fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya in 2000, then lying on the foundation's tax returns to conceal the crime.

Seda faces as many as eight years in federal prison for his conviction.

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