paper trail

Va. court to decide whether American Muslims for Palestine must hand over financial documents

State AG investigating whether the advocacy group provided support to terror organizations

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The newly sworn-in attorney general of Virginia, Jason Miyares sits in his office January 19, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia.

A long-awaited court hearing in Virginia next week is expected to decide if a pro-Palestinian advocacy group with alleged ties to Hamas will be compelled to hand over sensitive financial documents that could reveal closely guarded funding sources.

The outcome of the hearing in Richmond on Tuesday could have major consequences for the Virginia-based nonprofit organization American Muslims for Palestine, which is the target of an investigation launched shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel by the state’s Republican attorney general, Jason Miyares.

In a statement announcing his probe on social media last October, Miyares said his office was investigating the group “for fundraising without proper registration and for potentially violating Virginia’s charitable solicitation laws, including benefitting or providing support to terrorist organizations.”

On its website, AMP, founded in 2006, describes itself as “a grassroots organization dedicated to advancing the movement for justice in Palestine by educating the American public about Palestine and its rich cultural, historical and religious heritage and through grassroots mobilization and advocacy.”

But the group has faced increased scrutiny in the wake of Hamas’ attacks over its ties to anti-Israel protests on college campuses and its backing of National Students for Justice in Palestine, which has expressed outspoken support for Hamas. Top officials at AMP, meanwhile, were once affiliated with a now-defunct group, the Islamic Association for Palestine, found liable for aiding Hamas.

For its part, AMP has said it has never supported or funded terrorism and that it does not send money overseas. 

The attorney general’s investigation is among a number of high-profile legal efforts now targeting AMP, including a civil lawsuit filed in Virginia in May that accuses the group of providing material support for Hamas. 

The group is also seeking to fend off a civil suit in Chicago, which Miyares’ office has cited in court filings, alleging that AMP is an “alter ego” of such groups as IAP and seeking to collect a $156 million judgment that has never been paid to the family of David Boim, an American killed by Hamas in a 1996 terrorist attack.

Both of those suits are also seeking to pry donor information that AMP has for years shielded from public view — and which has long been a source of intrigue among critics of the group who suspect it has engaged in nefarious activities.

Pending the judge’s decision next week, Miyares’ investigation could be the first to see meaningful movement in a multipronged legal effort to shed light on AMP’s finances.

As part of the probe, Miyares’ office filed a civil investigative demand seeking AMP’s financial records, including donor information. In a petition filed in response, AMP, which has criticized the probe as “defamatory” and “dangerous,” requested that a judge narrow the focus of the probe, claiming that the demand “exceeds the scope of the attorney general’s authority” and “improperly seeks detailed information regarding donors.”

Miyares’ office has rejected AMP’s effort to block the order, citing what it described as the group’s “admission” in its petition “that it has violated Virginia law” as proof “reasonable cause exists to issue the” civil investigative demand.

Christina Jump, an attorney for AMP, said in an email to Jewish Insider last month that the group “has been consistently registered with the secretary of the Commonwealth, though made an error common with many nonprofits of overlooking one additional form registration.”

“AMP then remedied that less than a month after the attorney general first alerted it to the oversight,” said Jump, an attorney for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, adding that the group “has remained compliant ever since.”

The hearing, initially scheduled for March, was further delayed last month after the judge granted AMP’s request for a continuance over the attorney general’s objections. The group had requested that the hearing be moved to a later date because it had recently parted ways with its local counsel, Faisal Gill, and was still in the process of finalizing an agreement with a new attorney based in Virginia.

Shortly after the hearing was delayed last month, Jump told JI that AMP “chose to go in a different direction with local counsel,” but did not explain why it had ended its relationship with Gill, who unsuccessfully ran for Los Angeles city attorney in 2022.

In a follow-up email to JI this week, Jump said that AMP’s local counsel is now Brad Marrs, an attorney in Richmond who specializes in civil trials. “He and I will both be there for the hearing,” she said.

Jump said that she looks “forward to clearing the inflammatory rhetoric that the attorney general unnecessarily injected into this case, and publicly setting out the undisputed facts.”

Chloe Smith, a spokesperson for Miyares, told JI on Tuesday that the attorney general “looks forward to next week’s hearing,” but did not comment further.

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