Attorneys for a Chicago man believed to be the only American citizen designated as terrorist sued the U.S. Treasury Department this week, saying he's been virtually unable to hold a job or engage in everyday transactions as a result.
Muhammad Salah was designated a terrorist in August 1995, months after an executive order by President Bill Clinton named Hamas a terrorist group and prohibited transactions with the group. Salah was in an Israeli prison at the time after pleading guilty to a Hamas support charge.
He returned to Illinois after his release in 1997, but with limited exceptions has been unable to open a bank account, buy groceries or gifts for his family because of the Clinton order's ban on transactions with a designated terrorist, the lawsuit said.
"There is no endpoint to the designation and its restrictions," the lawsuit said. It argues the designation was never court-tested, violating Salah's due process rights and essentially punishing him without a trial.
He is joined in the suit by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the American Friends Services Committee, a Quaker organization.
The groups say they would like to champion Salah's plight, but fear crossing restrictions on providing support to a terrorist that are spelled out in the executive order.
The ADC took up for two other Hamas supporters in July, issuing a release complaining about the deportation of two brothers from Texas. The brothers turned out to be Basman and Bayan Elashi. Each is a convicted felon tied to a Dallas-based Hamas support network. Salah is an unindicted co-conspirator in that case, listed among people Hamas deputy political leader Mousa Abu Marzook "utilized as a financial conduit on behalf and/or for the benefit of HAMAS."
Salah was indicted on racketeering charges in 2004, but convicted only of lying in a civil suit related to Hamas financing. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said jurors did think Salah was connected to Hamas and she didn't buy his claims that his confession to Israeli officials had been coerced.
Prosecutors say Salah continued serving for Hamas after the designation "including directing and financing travel to Israel and the West Bank in or about October 1999 of a Chicago-based associate."