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Last week, two FBI agents entered the small business of a Palestinian American in Chicagoland and began asking him questions about community leader Hatem Abudayyeh (who is still under investigation as one of the Midwest 23 activists) and Rasmea Odeh, the community icon facing trial this June. The United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) denounce this attempt at harassment and intimidation, and call on all organizers and activists around the country to remember: Don’t talk to the FBI!
The person visited by the FBI last week refused to answer any questions about Abudayyeh or Odeh, and told the agents to call his attorney when they insisted on continuing their interrogation. Everyone has the right to remain silent, and should always utilize that right when visited by the FBI or other law enforcement agencies.
If you are contacted by the FBI or other law enforcement, you should refuse to answer questions and IMMEDIATELY call the National Lawyers Guild Chicago hotline at 312-913-0039. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) also produces important “Know Your Rights” literature in English and Arabic.
In addition, a dynamic new organization, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, which focuses specifically on defending the rights of those active in Palestine support work, has published an important legal and tactical guide to Palestinian human rights advocacy in the U.S. Also, youth activists with the community-based Arab American Action Network in Chicago produced a popular video in 2012, reminding community members of their rights when approached by the FBI.
These FBI visits and intimidation tactics are not new to the Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities, which have been the most affected by U.S. law enforcement’s techniques of widespread surveillance, entrapment and harassment, especially since 9/11. The Department of Justice will continue to come after those of us who are doing effective and impactful work, especially those of us in the Palestine support movement. But we have rights that must be known, learned and defended.
Abudayyeh’s family home was raided by the FBI in September of 2010, and over 3 and a half years later, he still has not had all his property returned. The Midwest 23 were all subpoenaed to a federal grand jury, and all refused to testify, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas has repeatedly told Midwest 23 attorneys that the “investigation is ongoing.”
CSFR activists have insisted throughout that the investigation is nothing but a “witch hunt,” an attempt by federal law enforcement to harass, intimidate and pressure anti-war and international solidarity activists into informing on friends and colleagues in the social justice movements. And this has proven to be the case, as no arrests or indictments have been made. Nevertheless, the Midwest 23 cannot put this chapter of their lives behind them, as it seems that the FBI is still sniffing around for information.
The FBI and other federal and local law enforcement have used informants, surveillance, infiltration and other nefarious methods for decades in this country, targeting especially oppressed nationality groups like the Black and Chicano liberation movements, the Puerto Rican independence movement and the American Indian Movement. Recently, anti-war and anti-austerity activists like the Midwest 23, the NATO 5, Occupy and others have also come under attack, but the people facing some of the most vicious current state repression are Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, including Rasmea Odeh, who is facing 10 years in prison, revocation of her U.S. citizenship, and deportation for the ridiculous allegation that she lied on an immigration application two decades ago.