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U.S. attorney’s office confirms investigation of anti-war activists is ongoing

Published Feb 4, 2012 4:14 PM

The following combines Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 news releases issued by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

Northern Illinois Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas stated that the “investigation is continuing” in the case of the anti-war and international solidarity activists hit with FBI raids and grand jury repression. Jonas is known for his leading role in prosecuting the leaders of the Holy Land Foundation while he was trial attorney for the Department of Justice Counterterrorism Section.

This confirms what the U.S. Attorney’s office related some months ago: They are preparing multiple indictments of multiple activists. The FBI raided seven homes, and the government subpoenaed 23 international solidarity activists to a Chicago grand jury in September 2010. The anti-war activists refused to appear at the secretive grand jury and launched a campaign against political repression. The U.S. government is threatening to imprison anti-war activists on the grounds of “material support for terrorism.”

The confirmation of the ongoing investigation came during a Jan. 24 phone call between Jonas and attorney Bruce Nestor, who represents some of the political activists.

Nestor initially contacted Minneapolis Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter to view some of the sealed documents in the case. The grand jury proceedings against the anti-war activists are secret. The vast majority of documents relating to their case are under seal, meaning the targeted activists or their attorneys cannot view them. Winter had helped to oversee the Sept. 24, 2010, raids and in recent months represented the government on returning property seized in the raids. Winter told Nestor to contact Jonas.

Jonas told Nestor the documents would remain secret "pending completion of the investigation."

Jonas railroaded Holy Land leaders

Jonas views solidarity with Palestine as a crime deserving long-term imprisonment. Based on past performance, he is willing to pull every dirty trick available to him to obtain convictions. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. Its efforts were geared toward providing humanitarian aid to help the people of Palestine and other countries. In 2001 its offices were raided. Three years later, five people associated with the charity were indicted. The first trial ended with a hung jury. The second trial ended with convictions. The five defendants received sentences that range from 15 to 65 years in prison.

The Holy Land trial included secret witnesses — the defense never found out who the witnesses were — the use of hearsay evidence, and the introduction of evidence, as a means to prejudice the jury, that had nothing to do with the defendants, such as showing a video from Palestine of protesters burning a U.S. flag.

As lead prosecutor, Barry Jonas played a key role in all this. He is now working under Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who runs the federal grand jury attacking anti-war and international solidarity activists.

Judge refuses to dismiss charges against Carlos Montes

In a closely related case, the FBI directed the Los Angeles Sheriff to raid the home last May 17 of veteran Chicano leader Carlos Montes, who is now facing trial and imprisonment on six trumped-up felony charges

“In the interests of justice this case should be dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence,” said Montes’ lawyer, attorney Jorge Gonzales, in Los Angeles Superior Court on Jan. 24. Minutes later, however, Judge Lomeli sided with the prosecution, refusing to dismiss the charges. This sets the stage for a trial later this year.

"This proves what we believed all along," said Eric Gardner, a member of the L.A. Committee to Stop FBI Repression. “The government is going to use all means at its disposal to try and get Carlos — and other anti-war and solidarity activists around the country — behind bars."

Before Montes’ court appearance, activists gathered outside the court building demanding that the charges, which carry up to 18 years in prison, be dismissed. Then the protesters filled the courtroom. They ranged from longtime political activists to street vendors from Central America whom Montes is working with to fight police harassment and racist discrimination.

The prosecution has told the press that they want Montes to spend at least five years in jail.

Speaking in front of the courthouse, Mick Kelly, a spokesperson for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, whose Minneapolis home was also raided by the FBI, stated, “On May 17, 2011, the Los Angeles Sheriff Department — acting at the behest of the FBI — raided Montes’ home. The pretext was phony violations of the firearm code. These alleged violations have no basis in reality whatsoever. At issue in this case are the civil liberties of all of us who are standing up against war and injustice.”

The May 17 raid, by members of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the FBI, took place at 5 a.m. The Sheriff’s SWAT team and Emergency Operations Bureau agents armed with automatic weapons broke down the door to Montes' home while he slept. They seized computers, cell phones, current and historical political documents and left Montes' home in shambles. Montes could have been killed.

Kelly continued, “Carlos Montes is a hero who has devoted his entire life to making this world a better place. In the 1960s he was a founder and leader of the Brown Berets, the historic East Los Angeles walkouts and the Chicano Moratorium. He is an important leader in the movement for immigrant rights and has worked to defend public education. Montes is an example of a community leader who serves the people and builds the people’s struggle for justice.”

Legal record does not support claim of past felony

Montes' defense challenged the state’s claim that he has a felony record from his 1969 arrest for leading a student strike demanding Chicano Studies and Black Studies at East Los Angeles College. This is important: That the legal record does not support the claim of a past felony should rule out the District Attorney going ahead with this case. The government is alleging that it was a crime for Montes to buy several guns at a local sporting goods store because of the (nonexistent) felony record.

The prosecution is basing its evidence on a 42-year-old incident. During the student strike and rally, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department invaded the East Los Angeles College campus, beating and arresting student protesters. During the turmoil, Montes was arrested and charged with assaulting a sheriff’s deputy.

"This case is not about old records," says Charla Schlueter of the L.A. Committee to Stop FBI Repression. "The FBI is dredging up a case over four decades old because of Carlos' involvement in the anti-war, immigrant rights and international solidarity movements today. They don't like that he is part of a movement that challenges U.S. imperialism."

Next court appearance Feb. 8

Montes’ next court date is Feb. 8. Montes says his legal team will continue the discovery process to get ready for trial.

“The government knows its case against Carlos Montes is weak,” said Mick Kelly. “So they have made up a lie that Montes admitted to a felony record while he was being held in a squad car after the raid on his home.” The point of the discovery motion is to get to the bottom of this false allegation.

For further details on time and location of an emergency meeting in Los Angeles to defend Carlos Montes on Saturday, Feb. 11, visit the L.A. Committee’s Website at stopfbila.net.

Montes states that he is looking forward to a jury trial and that he is confident that a jury of his peers will find him not guilty.