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Justices won't intervene in terror case

Story Highlights

• Prosecution of seven Iranian-Americans will go ahead after court declines case
• The political exiles are accused of supporting a group designated as "terrorist"
• Defendants say State Department improperly designated Iranian opposition group
By Bill Mears
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal prosecution of seven Iranian-Americans accused of supporting an alleged terrorist group will go forward after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene.

The justices turned down an appeal Monday from the political exiles -- all now U.S. citizens -- who backed an Iranian opposition group that the State Department designated as a "terrorist organization" a decade ago.

At issue was the power of the government to try those accused of giving money to groups linked to terrorism, without giving the defendants a chance to show that the organization was improperly designated.

The seven were charged in March 2001 with providing "material support" to the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known by the initials MEK. In particular, the government accuses the seven Iranian-Americans of trying to solicit money at Los Angeles International Airport.

The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran seeks a secular democratic government in Iran and the ouster of the current cleric rule. It has been accused of a long-standing campaign of bombings and assassinations, among other activities.

In its high court appeal, attorneys for the dissidents said the group "publishes periodicals, has lobbied Congress, and has aided the United States' investigation into terrorist bombings and into Iran's nuclear program." The organization describes itself as a "political" group.

Five years ago, about 150 members of Congress asked the Bush administration to remove the "terrorist organization" label from the group.

The appeal claimed the group was labeled a "terrorist organization" by the United States in 1997 as a "goodwill gesture" to then-newly elected President Mohammed Khatami.

Airline passenger rights

In another national security-related case, the high court also declined to get involved in a dispute over airline passenger rights and privacy.

John Gilmore, a U.S. citizen living in northern California, wanted to travel to Washington in July 2002 but was not allowed to board his flight.

The reason: He refused to produce any personal identification at Oakland International Airport. He was told officials could refuse him passage because of a "secret" government directive that he claims he was not allowed to see.

At issue was whether the government may keep secret a "policy statement" that is generally applicable to millions of passengers every day, a directive the government fully acknowledges exists.

The Bush administration says the rule is necessary for national security but has not identified any regulation justifying it, nor any "special circumstances" -- such as an imminent threat of a terrorist attack by air -- to justify its continued secrecy.

On his Web site, Gilmore -- who describes himself as an "entrepreneur and civil libertarian" -- said he sued the Transportation Security Administration "to make them stop demanding that citizens identify themselves in order to travel."

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The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider two appeals with national security implications.



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