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Classified ruling issued in terror financing case after evidence queried for wiretaps

[JURIST] A New York federal judge Friday issued a highly-unusual classified ruling rejecting a defense motion to dismiss a US case brought against two Albany mosque members originally charged [JURIST report] with money laundering and supporting terrorism after their arrests in a government sting operation. The designation of the ruling as secret and not merely sealed means that the defense lawyers in the case cannot even read the judge's reasons for why their motion was refused. The defense had brought the motion alleging that evidence in the case may have been illegally obtained through National Security Agency wiretaps under the President's controversial domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. Judge Thomas J. McAvoy of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York made his ruling after prosecutors gave him classified documents relevant to the case. The lawyer for one of the accused told the New York Times that the classification of the ruling had convinced him that evidence from secret wiretaps had in fact been used.

A specific terrorism charge against Yassin Aref, 35, an imam at the Masjid as-Salam mosque [mosque website] in Albany and Mohammed Hossain, 50, a mosque founder who owns a restaurant, was later dropped when it was found to be based on a Defense Department mistranslation of evidence [NYT report]. Hossain is currently out on bail pending trial; Aref has been re-arrested on new charges. The New York Times has more. The number of secret proceedings in US federal courts [JURIST report] has increased in recent years, according to new studies.

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