Somali Merchants in Seattle Receive Compensation for Government Abuses Committed During Post-9/11 Raid

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
July 22, 2004 12:00 am

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SEATTLE — After more than two years of negotiations by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, two Somali merchants are finally receiving compensation for losses they suffered in a raid by government agents, the ACLU announced today.

“These Somali businessmen were among the earliest innocent victims of overzealous actions in the government’s war on terrorism, said Kathleen Taylor, Executive Director of the ACLU of Washington. “It is only fair that the government is providing some restitution for the unnecessary harm done to their livelihoods.”

Abdinasir Ali Nur, owner of the Maka Mini Market, is to receive $75,000 from the United States Treasury Department, and Abdinasir Khalif Farah, owner of the Amana Gift Shop, is to receive $25,000.

On November 7, 2001, agents under the direction of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control raided the building in south Seattle that housed the Barakat Wire Transfer Company, a money-transfer business. The action stemmed from an executive order issued under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act that authorizes the blocking of assets of persons and entities providing funds to foreign nationals alleged to be supporting terrorism.

The Treasury Department did not claim that customers or local operators of Barakat were acting illegally but alleged that overseas entities skimmed portions of the money transfers for illegal purposes. Ultimately, no charges were filed against Barakat’s operators.

Sharing the building were two businesses separately owned and operated in self-contained spaces: the Maka Mini Market and the Amana Gift Shop. The Maka Mini Market provides halal meat (which is prepared according to Muslim precepts) and other perishable foods for its customers, who are largely Somali immigrants and also are Muslims. The Amana Gift Shop specialized in African clothing, perfumes and aromatic oils, and audiotapes, videotapes, and computer discs in English and African languages.

Although their proprietors explained that the businesses were totally unconnected to the money-transfer business, government agents conducting the raids seized their entire inventory. Property taken included display racks, food, toilet paper, gift items, furniture, cash from the register, and shelves on the walls.

The property was hauled away, and some of it was stored in a warehouse in Auburn. Perishable items, including the contents of two large meat lockers with halal meat. When the property was released three weeks later, the businessmen found that much of their merchandise and equipment was badly damaged while in storage. They suffered weeks of lost sales, and the Amana Gift Shop eventually closed.

The claims for compensation were filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The ACLU believes that the actions against the two businesses were an unconstitutional seizure and were not a valid exercise of authority under International Economic Emergency Powers Act. ACLU cooperating attorneys Jim Donohue and Mike Thorp of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe represented the business owners.

A statement on the settlement by Abdinasir Ali Nur and Abdinasir Khalif Farah follows:

We are pleased to be receiving compensation for the losses we suffered. It is a matter of fairness. The government raided our businesses even though we had done nothing wrong, and we were never charged with any crime. As a result, we went through much hardship. Our stores were closed, our goods were spoiled, and our reputations were damaged. Receiving compensation cannot make up for all this, but we do feel that some justice has been done.

We want to express our appreciation to all the people who have helped us – the customers who kept shopping in our markets, the churches and other organizations that offered their support, and the people we had never met who came by to wish us well. We look forward to continuing to serve the Somali community and others in Seattle. And we look forward to living our lives in peace.

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