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Dallas charity's lawsuit over terror claims in book dismissed

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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(08-21) 03:37 PDT Los Angeles, Calif. (AP) --

A charity's lawsuit against a former U.S. Treasury Department official over allegations the group funded terrorists has been dismissed at the organization's request.

Kids in Need of Development, Education and Relief asked that the lawsuit against Matthew Levitt be dropped so it could focus on charity work instead of litigation, said Todd Gallinger, an attorney for the Dallas-based group.

In April, the charity, also known as KinderUSA, sued Levitt over a brief passage in his book, "Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad." The group claimed the passage inaccurately suggested the organization, which funnels money to Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, funded Hamas.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also named Yale University Press and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy for publishing the book last year.

KinderUSA moved to withdraw the case, with prejudice, last week.

"We made no statements, no agreement that the claims in their book are accurate, and in fact, we still contest the statement that KinderUSA financed terrorism," Gallinger said. "That is why we see this case as a draw."

Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Treasury Department until earlier this year, said he was pleased the case was dropped, "vindicating his free speech rights."

"I conducted three years of careful research for Hamas, and the book was the subject of academic peer review," Levitt said in a statement issued by the Washington Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

The Washington Institute called the lawsuit's dismissal a "complete victory" for Levitt and the book's publishers.

The disputed passage made a connection between KinderUSA and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a now-shuttered Islamic charity that has been accused by the federal government of funneling money to Hamas.

"Even after the closure of the Holy Land Foundation in 2001, other America-based charities continue to fund Hamas. One organization that has appeared to rise out of the ashes of the HLFRD is Kinder USA," it read.

Levitt has been a government witness in the ongoing Dallas trial of Holy Land, which has denied any support of Hamas or terrorism.

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