Yesterday, The Electronic Intifada reported that the US government has frozen the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian community leader in Chicago, and his wife, Naima:
The freezing of the Abudayyeh family’s bank accounts on Friday, 6 May is the latest development in a secret grand jury investigation that has been launched by US District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office in Chicago. The freezing of the accounts has raised concerns that criminal indictments in the case may be imminent.
Twenty-three activists across the Midwest US, including myself, have been subpoenaed for the investigation (though my subpoena doesn’t say anything on it, it is clear that it is related to educational trips to Palestine I have helped organize, rather than my work with The Electronic Intifada).
The national Committee to Stop FBI Repression, which has formed around this case, posted an update on its website yesterday:
There is an executive order which empowered OFAC to block the assets of groups or individuals that are under investigation for providing material support to Foreign Designated Terrorists. Executive Order #13224.
OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation without a hearing. There is an effort being made to determine if OFAC was the source of the freeze.
The committee is asking supporters to call the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (202-622-2410, 202-622-1651) today to demand that the Abudayyeh family’s accounts be unfrozen.
The Abudayyeh family was featured in the Public Broadcasting Service documentary series The New Americans, which followed the couple as Naima emigrated from the West Bank to marry Hatem and her struggle to adjust to life in the US.
Hatem Abudayyeh was also one of the organizers of the legendary protest of former Israeli Prime Minister’s speech at the University of Chicago in autumn 2009.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the Coalition to Protect People’s Rights announced early this evening that all the calls to the US attorney and Department of Treasure offices have made an impact, and that the Abudayyeh family’s funds have been restored to them:
On Friday, May 6th, the bank accounts of Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh of Chicago were frozen. The bank manager at the TCF (Twin Cities Federal) branch could not explain what had happened but stated that the Bank Security Act prevented him from releasing any assets.
In a strange turn of events, the bank admitted announced today (May 10) that they shut down the accounts, stating they no longer want to provide banking services to the Abudayyeh family. Simultaneously, TCF management informed the Abudayyehs today that they were issuing them a check for the value of their accounts.
The Abudayyehs’ lawyer was quoted in the statement:
Michael Deutsch, attorney for the family, said, “In my opinion, the bank did not act out of the blue. I suspect that the FBI and U.S Attorney investigation caused the bank to overreact and illegally freeze the Abudayyehs’ banking accounts that had been there for over a decade.”
Regarding the TCF bank, and Hatem Abudayyeh’s gratitude for the outpouring of support, the statement adds:
TCF is well known for having links to the right wing think tank the Center for the American Experiment.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the Coalition to Protect People’s Rights see the return of the money to the Abudayyeh family and the admission by the bank of their action as a victory for their efforts and an affirmation of the constitutional right of Americans not to be deprived of property without due process of law. However, they are concerned that the actions of TCF management may violate state and federal public accommodations laws by denying the Abudayyehs banking services on a discriminatory basis.
Hatem Abudayyeh expressed his thanks to the many people who called in over the past two days. “Thank you all for your work. The pressure put on the US Attorney and OFAC no doubt caused them to contact TCF, who subsequently broke their silence and ended this frightening incident.”