The court said a paragraph that prohibits providing “expert advice or assistance” to designated international terrorist organizations is a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments because it is impermissibly vague.
“It was in part a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution which allows free association and free speech and also the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which grants due process before criminalizing someone,” said Ralph Fertig, president of the Humanitarian Law Project, the organization that brought the suit.
The Humanitarian Law Project filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who sought to provide assistance to Kurdish refugees living in Turkey.
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins said the provision, which updated a 1996 counterterrorism law banning material support for terrorism, offered no distinction between support for violent and non-violent activities.
“Because the kind of advice we give to the Kurdistan Workers Party is advice on how to deal with the United Nations — how to go to legislative bodies, how to pursue peaceful means of bringing to the attention of the world the plight in which they find themselves,” Fertig said in defense of the assistance.
Those convicted under that provision may receive sentences of up to 15 years in prison.
The Associated Press reported that the ruling was handed down late Friday and made available Monday. It was the judge’s second major ruling to undercut anti-terrorist laws in recent months; Collins authored a decision upheld in part by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December, the AP reported. (December ruling)