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Muslim Charity Sues Comerica Bank Claiming Civil Rights Violation

DETROIT A Muslim charity raided by federal agents in September has sued a bank, saying it violated the charity's civil rights by planning to close its accounts.

The charity, Life for Relief and Development, based in Southfield, Michigan, also seeks an injunction to stop Comerica Bank from giving other banks any information it might have about the organization. The charity is challenging the constitutionality of a section of the Patriot Act, which allows financial institutions to share information about suspected money laundering or terrorist activity.

The Patriot Act, approved by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, was designed to give law enforcement agencies more tools to combat terrorism, but some provisions were challenged on constitutional grounds for restricting civil liberties.

Comerica had told the charity that it planned to terminate the accounts Nov. 15, but granted an extension, according to the lawsuit.

Comerica Vice President Kathy Pitton declined to comment on the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court.

FBI agents assigned to a terrorism task force searched Life's offices Sept. 18, seizing computer servers, donor records and other financial documents. They also searched the homes of the charity's chief executive, an ex-employee and two board members.

The FBI would not say what agents were looking for, but charity officials have said it might be related to relief work the group did in Iraq. The international humanitarian organization also is active in Afghanistan.

No charges have been filed. The charity has sought to reassure the Detroit area's Muslim community that it is legal to donate money to the organization, which was founded in 1992 by Iraqi immigrants.

Monday, November 27, 2006

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