Activists defy orders to testify

January 25, 2011

(Photo courtesy of Maureen Murphy)
Murphy: ‘The investigation infringes on our rights.’

Some Palestine solidarity activists are defying orders to appear before a grand jury in Chicago.

The FBI delivered subpoenas last month to at least nine Chicago-area residents. But their spokespersons say none showed up to testify Tuesday.

The nine include Maureen Murphy, 28, an Andersonville resident who volunteers with the Palestine Solidarity Group–Chicago and edits Electronic Intifada, an online journal about the Israeli occupation.

“There’s been no crime committed here,” Murphy said Tuesday. “This investigation is all about obtaining associational information that infringes on our First Amendment rights to organize.”

In September the FBI raided homes and an office of several organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis. They were among 14 activists in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan who refused to appear before a grand jury in Chicago in October.

Some of the September subpoenas suggest the government is investigating foreign groups it calls terrorist.

Officials haven’t charged any of the activists or confirmed that the September and December subpoenas are part of the same investigation. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, said officials could not comment on the proceedings.

Attorneys for the Chicago-area activists say they’ve written Fitzgerald’s office, asserting Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Prosecutors could offer immunity from charges and issue new subpoenas. The activists could eventually face jail time if found in contempt of court.