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Monday, August 30, 2010


Josh Gerstein reports on a closed door hearing taking place at the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th circuit in New Orleans on Monday. The hearing relates to the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which was one of the organizations named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
The groups’ request to have the co-conspirator list formally renounced by the district court seems to have languished through a trial and retrial for the Holy Land Foundation and five of its top officers. However, after they were convicted on terrorism-support charges in 2008, Judge Jorge Solis issued a secret ruling in July 2009 on the groups’ demands to strike the Justice Department filing.

I reported exclusively on this blog last year that Solis had, to some degree, split the baby in his decision. “The ruling was ambiguous,” a knowledgeable source told me. “The judge acknowledged the way the whole thing was handled by the prosecutors was not appropriate. On the other hand, he did not really go ahead and reverse the decisions.”

Of the three major Islamic groups, ISNA, which holds title to the land used by a series of American mosques, is the only one that appealed Solis’s ruling.

The appeal to the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit has ground on in near-total secrecy, though, in a strange twist, neither of the parties to the appeal appears to favor it being sealed. For that matter, though, neither seems to have done much to stop the secrecy in the case from metastasizing. In court filings, NAIT has said it opposes the secrecy but feels compelled to respect Solis’s decision to put his order and some filings related to it under seal.
So if only ISNA appealed the ruling, what is Monday's hearing about? Law Blog assumes that it's about removing the unindicted co-conspirator designation from NAIT, but if they didn't appeal Judge Solis' ruling, how could that be?



Josh Gerstein has been kind enough to update me by email that he has updated his original post: It was NAIT that appealed and not ISNA (that makes more sense).

He also notes that "he government seems to have taken no position on the secrecy of the briefs or the closure of Monday's arguments."



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