RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares launched an investigation Tuesday into a foundation based in the state that officials say may have provided financial support to terrorist organizations.
The attorney general's Consumer Protection Section will investigate charges that the AJP Educational Foundation Inc., also known as American Muslims for Palestine, "may have used funds raised for impermissible purposes under state law, including benefitting or providing support to terrorist organizations," according to a press release from Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita.
Asked what prompted the probe, LaCivita responded that she could not comment on details of an ongoing investigation.
In addition, the press release stated, the organization may have solicited contributions in Virginia without first having registered with the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
In a response online, the American Muslims for Palestine called the probe defamatory and dangerous. In the wake of hostilities between Hamas and Israel, Muslims are grappling with a rising tide of hate, the group charged.
"Instead of working to protect the people of Virginia from the wave of Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian hate sweeping across our nation, Jason Miyares is contributing to the hate with tired Islamophobic tropes and promises of a witch hunt straight from the McCarthy-era," the group's statement said.
"American Muslims for Palestine is a duly registered non-profit organization that has stood up for justice here and abroad for over a decade in compliance with the law. If Attorney General Miyares has identified an issue with our license to fundraise in Virginia, that is a common and easily resolvable civil issue that many non-profits face and fix. By publicly making this dishonest public announcement, Mr. Miyares is clearly attempting to score political points with hateful extremists.
"As an organization of American Muslims dedicated to speaking up for the human rights of the Palestinian people, we refuse to allow empty threats and baseless smears to stop us from advocating for a just and humane American foreign policy in Palestine and elsewhere. We are currently in consultation with our legal team to ensure our work continues and our constitutional rights are protected."
The organization has been in headlines recently: ABC News in Chicago reported earlier this week that the Hyatt Regency, O'Hare Hotel would no longer host a planned American Muslims for Palestine convention. The group responded that this was "part of a concerted effort to delegitimize and silence pro-Palestinian human rights voices in the United States, which is a matter of grave concern."
The foundation, a public nonprofit, has headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington. Its website explains that Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization and the fiscal sponsor of The American Muslims for Palestine.
Under Virginia state law, every organization must file an initial registration statement with the state agriculture and consumer services commissioner. The statement must include this language: "No funds have been or will knowingly be used, directly or indirectly, to benefit or provide support, in cash or in kind, to terrorists, terrorist organizations, terrorist activities, or the family members of any terrorist."
The law also says, “No person shall be registered by the commonwealth or by any locality to solicit funds that are intended to benefit or support terrorists, terrorist organizations or terrorist activities.”
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