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Tallahassee activists hear Noor Elashi and others speak on Holy Land 5 and FBI repression

By staff

Tallahassee, FL – More than 30 student activists from Florida State University (FSU) packed into a room in the Oglesby Student Union to hear Noor Elashi and other organizers speak about government repression, March 25. Holy Land 5 attorney John Cline joined Elashi on the panel, along with Mick Kelly, who was one of the 23 anti-war activists raided by the FBI in September, 2010.

The event was organized by the newly-formed Tallahassee chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Cecelia O'Brien, one of the founders of the chapter, introduced the speakers and contextualized this new wave of government repression for students. “Student groups in Florida recently faced repression from their university administration, which is part of a larger attack on the rights of activists,” said O'Brien. She continued, “The way we fight back against this repression is by supporting each other and sharing our stories at events like this one.”

Noor Elashi spoke as the daughter of Ghassan Elashi, a founder of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development who was raided by the FBI in 2001 and imprisoned by the U.S. government in 2008. As the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., the Holy Land Foundation provided housing and scholarships for poor students in Palestine and around the world. The Bush administration shut down the Foundation in 2001 and later indicted its founders on bogus charges of material support for terrorist groups. Ghassan Elashi remains imprisoned, along with four other Foundation members, for providing charity to the Palestinian people.

After reading an excerpt from her upcoming book about her father's experience with repression and how it affected her family, Elashi spoke about the awful conditions her father experienced in federal prison. The U.S. government currently incarcerates Ghassan Elashi in the so-called “Communications Management Unit” in a Marion, Illinois prison.

John Cline, who was Ghassan's attorney, spoke about the outrageous case that the U.S. government brought against the Holy Land Foundation. He talked about the government's use of anonymous witnesses. He also talked about the specious evidence brought against Ghassan and the four other founders that lower courts determined was inadmissible and flawed. Students were visibly outraged at this injustice and spoke about it during the question and comment section at the end.

Finally, Mick Kelly spoke about his experience with government repression when he was raided by the FBI on Sept. 24, 2010. Kelly talked about receiving a call from his spouse while at work, who told him ominously, “They're here.” After returning home, he found his home had been raided by a machine gun-wielding FBI SWAT Team, who had used a battering ram to break down the door to his apartment. The agents carrying out the raid came heavily armed with two extra clips, as if expecting a confrontation. Kelly reiterated that he was raided because of his anti-war and solidarity work, particularly with regards to Colombia and Palestine.

After a 30-minute question and answer session, students stuck around afterwards to talk with the three speakers about the Holy Land 5 case and ways of fighting repression.

Tallahassee SDS will continue organizing against government repression and looks forward to building on this successful event, according to organizers.

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