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Anti-war activists targeted by FBI speak out

By Karen Hawkins Associated Press | Last updated: Oct 3, 2010 - 10:40:13 PM

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Anti-war activist Meredith Aby, center, whose home was raided by FBI agents in Minneapolis, is surrounded by supporters as she addressed the media, Sept. 24. The FBI said raids were made in Minneapolis and Chicago as part of a terrorism investigation. AP Photo/Jim Mone
CHICAGO ( - Two anti-war activists said that a 12-hour search of their Chicago home by the FBI was an attempt to intimidate them and silence the peace movement.

Joe Iosbaker and his wife, Stephanie Weiner, said the government targeted them because they've been outspoken against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. funding of conflicts abroad. They denied any wrongdoing.

The FBI said it searched eight addresses in Minneapolis and Chicago Sept. 24. Warrants suggest agents were looking for connections between local anti-war activists and groups in Colombia and the Middle East.

Activists Iosbaker and Weiner declined to discuss their relationship with any groups abroad, citing their upcoming testimony before a grand jury on Oct. 5.

“These raids, searches and grand jury investigations are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate us and to intimidate the anti-war movement,” Mr. Iosbaker said. “We have done nothing wrong.”

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the bureau's investigations “are predicated on criminal violations, not First Amendment protected activities.”

When reached Sept. 24, FBI spokesman Steve Warfield declined to provide details of the searches, but said there was no imminent threat to the community and the agency wasn't anticipating any arrests “at this time.” He said the FBI was seeking evidence related to “activities concerning the material support of terrorism.”

The homes of longtime Minneapolis anti-war activists Mick Kelly, Jess Sundin and Meredith Aby were among those searched. All three were also subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago this month.

The warrant for Mr. Kelly's home, provided by his attorney, sought evidence on travel he did as part of his work for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and information on any travel to Colombia, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria or Israel.

Two groups use the name Freedom Road Socialist Organization, one based in Chicago and one in New York. They split several years ago, and the New York group said it was not targeted.

The Web site for the Chicago group, which describes itself as a “revolutionary socialist and Marxist-Leninist organization,” shows Kelly and Sundin have been affiliated with it. Mr. Kelly edits FightBack!, a Minneapolis-based Web site and newspaper for the group.

Mr. Kelly's subpoena also commanded him to bring records he might have relating to the Middle East and Colombia, along with “all records of any payment provided directly or indirectly to Hatam Abudayyeh.”

The subpoena did not further identify Mr. Abudayyeh, but FightBack! has interviewed and carried articles by a Hatam Abudayyeh who is the executive director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network.

Mr. Abudayyeh did not return a phone message left at his office Sept. 24, and his office mailbox was full Sept. 25. His cell phone voicemail was also full. Several activists said their cell phones had been confiscated by the FBI.

The Web site for the Arab American Action Network describes the organization as a “grassroots nonprofit” that “strives to strengthen the Arab community in the Chicago area by building its capacity to be an active agent for positive social change.”

Melinda Power, an attorney representing peace workers Iosbaker and Weiner, said the couple know Mr. Abudayyeh through their work on Palestinian issues, but she didn't know the extent of their relationship. She said Mr. Abudayyeh is Palestinian.

Atty. Power said Mr. Iosbaker, 51, works at the University of Illinois in Chicago, though she didn't know in what capacity, and his wife was a college teacher. UIC's Web site lists Mr. Iosbaker as assistant to the associate chancellor for sustainability.

Mr. Iosbaker and Ms. Weiner said the raid wouldn't stop them from speaking out. Activists are planning protests outside of FBI offices around the country, they said.