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Aid group labeled terrorists

A Canadian organization that provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has been formally branded a terrorist entity days before the start of a court battle over the revocation of its charitable status.

In a letter to the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy, the RCMP said the federal government had added the group to a list of "terrorist entities" as of April 24.

"IRFAN is now classified as a 'terrorist group' under Canadian law," the letter from Supt. Stephane Bonin states.

"As a consequence, any property or asset belonging to IRFAN is now frozen."

The letter offers no reason for the listing decision but Canada Revenue Agency has said the organization supported Hamas, itself branded as a terrorist organization.

IRFAN was due in Federal Court of Appeal next week to contest a 2011 CRA decision to revoke its charitable status because of its alleged ties to Hamas and failure to keep proper records.

No one for IRFAN was immediately available to comment, but a lawyer speaking for the group condemned the listing as an attack on humanitarian support for Palestinians.

IRFAN did not know the terrorist listing was in the works and had no opportunity to respond or offer its side of the story, Ottawa-based lawyer Yavar Hameed said in an interview.

There's no evidence the group did any direct funding of Hamas, he said.

"The real nub of the matter is that it's basically going through Palestine, therefore it's supportive of Hamas," Hameed said.

By listing IRFAN-Canada, only days ahead of the Federal Court Appeal hearing, the Canadian government is, without due process, pre-empting the legal debate before the Federal Court of Appeal to determine whether the organization's charitable status should be reinstated.

"This listing happens days before we are to present arguments for the first time to the Federal Court of Appeal, so we're very concerned about the timing with which this listing happens which completely undermines any ability for this organization to work as a charity," Hameed said.

"On its face, we believe it is an unfair and unconstitutional decision that has been taken."

Hameed also said the listing was a "nail in the coffin" for Canadian humanitarian support for "orphans and destitute" Palestinians.

The Canadian Press

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