I have noticed a few new comments popping out on old blogs regarding the issue of Child Foundation FBI Raid that occurred in Portland on July 15. As I have said before, please let us not be rumor mongering and keep perspective that they are innocent until proven guilty. The investigation is not complete yet, but it seems Child Foundation has had most of its equipment returned and they have certainly not been charged with any wrongdoing let alone convicted.
This is the link to the latest article by the local newspaper that first broke the story, and which quotes JJ's blog as well as several members of the Iranian-American community, including one of the founders of Child Foundation. I am also copying and pasting it for those who could not open the link. (The newspaper also provides a heartbreaking slideshow of the Iranian children living in extreme poverty and suffering from illness that the foundation has helped over the years. I could not copy and paste the slideshow of course but it is available at the bottom of the article if you can open the link which will direct you to their website).
Copy and Paste:
Willamette Week Online
By James Pitkin
July 30, 2008
Two weeks after federal agents raided the largest Iranian charity in Oregon, employees at Child Foundation have regained possession of their seized cell phones and fax machines.
But the feds are still holding the charity’s computers and remaining silent about the reasons behind a raid that’s alarmed Iranians locally and on the Internet after bloggers published WW’s account of the raid (see “Mystery Raid,” WW, July 23, 2008).
Online comments ranged from fear of an Orwellian crackdown on Iranian-Americans to speculation about whether Child Foundation was violating tightened U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
“I would like the Iranian-American community…to follow this case closely and seek answers,” writes Jahanshah Javid on Iranian.com, a U.S. website about Iranian news and culture.
Until this week, it was a mystery even which agency was responsible for the July 15 raid at the charity’s headquarters at 1220 SW Morrison St. But foundation attorney Jeremy Sacks tells WW that it was the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the help of the FBI.
Sacks, a lawyer with the Stoel Rives firm in Portland, otherwise declined to comment, except to say Child Foundation is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
Local FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent Robinson, head of the criminal division in the Portland office, has so far refused to comment.
The Portland-based charity connects sponsors with poor children in the Middle East. Its five-member board of directors and office manager are all Iranian-Americans. The 14-year-old charity does most of its work in Iran but also helps kids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Turkey and the United States, according to its website.
Navid Agha Seyedali, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, tells WW the raid targeted the charity’s financial data. He stressed that there have been no charges brought and no allegations of wrongdoing.
Seyedali, a Boeing consultant who lives in Seattle, said the charity expects to have its computers back later this week after the feds finish copying the data. But he’s unsure when the investigation will be complete.
“The government is interested to know that the funds we have received from people have been distributed legally,” Seyedali says. “Since we have been basically in the business of supporting children in Iran, and it is under U.S. sanctions, they would like to know that we have complied with all the laws and regulations.”
Iran is under strict sanctions that require even nonprofits to have a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. In most cases charities can provide only material support such as food and medical supplies to people in Iran, though some licenses are granted for money transfers into the country.
Such restrictions make it difficult for charities to operate effectively, says Katayoon Shaya, president of the nonprofit Children of Persia based in Montgomery Village, Md. Her group has no license and is restricted to helping kids in America who come from Iran for medical care.
“If you’ve got a cause that you deeply care for, and it takes funding to accomplish, it certainly is very, very difficult, because you can’t send funds,” she says.
The rules tightened even further a year ago, when President Bush issued an executive order freezing the assets of anyone suspected of undermining “economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq.”
Civil libertarians feared the rule would be used to attack charities in Iran, a country the White House accuses of aiding the Iraq insurgency. A Treasury Department spokeswoman told the website Talking Points Memo that the new rule would not be used against groups “donating money to orphans,” which is exactly what Child Foundation was set up to do.
Seyedali says Child Foundation’s license allows it to send only food to Iran. Treasury Department spokesman Andrew DeSouza says he can’t confirm whether Child Foundation or any other charity has such a license.
The Child Foundation website says it helps talented kids stay in school and go to college, sending a social worker to assess their needs and then matching them with sponsors. What sort of help the children get is never outlined specifically on the website, and even Seyedali, when first asked, was uncertain what assistance is provided.
Neda Soofi, a Portland lawyer who sponsors a 10-year-old girl in Iran, says she remains confident in Child Foundation after the raid.
As far as I know,” she says, “they have always done what they said they would do, and I trust them.”
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