Charity sues over reports of terror ties
By Matt O'Connor
November 16, 2001
An Islamic charity based in suburban Bridgeview filed suit Thursday alleging it was defamed in numerous news accounts that accused the organization of being a terrorist front under investigation by federal authorities.
Global Relief Foundation Inc., which identified itself as the second-largest Islamic charity in the U.S., charged the "false and outrageous reports" caused a sharp drop in donations.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, named as defendants ABC News, The New York Times, Associated Press, The Boston Globe, the New York Daily News and the San Francisco Chronicle. It seeks 5 million in damages from each news operation.
Global Relief said it is not a front for terrorists and has no ties to Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, or any other terrorist group.
Several of the news stories indicated federal authorities were considering freezing Global Relief's assets as part of the U.S. effort to cut off bin Laden's finances.
But the suit said the U.S. government hasn't requested or subpoenaed any of Global Relief's records and that it has never been accused of terrorism or wrongdoing by the government.
Since the news reports, Global Relief said its mailed donations have dropped to three or four a day, down from as many as 50 a day. It also said it has received "many threatening and disparaging letters and phone calls."
With 10 employees working out of its Bridgeview office, Global Relief said it raised more than million in donations last year, mostly from Muslims in the U.S. and Europe.
The charity said it distributes food, clothing and other emergency relief supplies and provides medical care and education around the world.
Global Relief said a day after the Sept. 11 attacks, it "openly, publicly and unequivocally condemned" the attacks and has itself been seeking to raise donations for victims of the attacks.
Representatives of the media organizations could not be reached for comment Thursday night. Lawyers for the foundation declined to discuss the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges ABC aired a report on "Good Morning America" accusing Global Relief of funneling money to bin Laden.
According to the lawsuit, ABC retracted the allegation later the same day but buried it on its Web site and didn't broadcast an apology or retraction on the network.