May 21, 2011

Third Unitarian Church of Chicago Social Action Committee calls on U.S. Department of Justice to End Subpoenas on Dissenting Activists

The Third Unitarian Church of Chicago Social Action Committee opposes the misuse of the grand jury process by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the accompanying FBI raids. Twenty-three human rights activists, including 7 Palestinian-Americans, are currently under subpoena to appear before a grand jury in Chicago, headed and controlled by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The grand jury is a secret and closed interrogation conducted without media presence, judge supervision or the right to an attorney.

All 23 of the targeted activists have invoked their Fifth Amendment right and have chosen not to testify before the grand jury. The U.S. Attorney may now force these activists to testify or go to prison. Whether some are indicted or others are jailed for refusing to testify, the threat to our constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and assembly, is very real.

Of special concern are DOJ demands that activists in the U.S. be forced to reveal names of those who seek peaceful change in Palestine. This process has been described as a “fishing expedition” in which the DOJ looks for ways to prosecute activists without legal grounds. Our Committee is deeply concerned that solidarity activists, through this misuse of the grand jury process, may soon be facing imprisonment for refusing to allow themselves to be compelled to name names of fellow activists.

The Supreme Court’s ruling from last June on “material support” for terrorism has enabled the DOJ to conduct these raids, armed with an extremely broad definition of what constitutes “material support.” The DOJ subpoenas from Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald are an infringement on the First Amendment, which upholds the right of free speech, protest and free assembly – one of our most basic rights as Americans.

It is our belief that the U. S. government exercise strategically its international influence, including making U.S, aid to Israel contingent upon Israel’s compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts. In taking a courageous stand against U.S. military support of violations of human rights, one should be concerned about judicial efforts to silence fellow citizens opposing unjust policy.