Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ground Zero Mosque: Anti mosque group "encouraged" by standstill

Source: American Center for Law and Justice

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents a New York City firefighter who survived the 9-11 terrorist attacks and has filed a lawsuit to stop the Ground Zero Mosque, said today it is encouraged by an admission in court from an attorney representing Sharif El-Gamal, the mosque developer, that "we are far away" regarding construction of the project and acknowledged that there are "money issues." The admission comes following a hearing in New York Supreme Court where the ACLJ's motion for a temporary restraining order was denied because the Judge was satisfied that the admission by the developer's attorney meant the project is not imminent.

"This revelation clearly shows that the project has run into problems," said Brett Joshpe, ACLJ Counsel in the case. "This admission in open court is an important signal that this project is faltering and gives us additional time to pursue our legal challenge. We look forward to presenting our case to the court to ensure that this mosque is never built at Ground Zero."

The admission about "money issues" and the acknowledgement that that construction of the project is "far away" comes at a time of re-organization for the project with the very visible leader Imam Rauf being replaced.

The court is scheduled to hear the case on February 22nd.

Also at today's hearing, the ACLJ rejected assertions by the developer that the lawsuit challenging the mosque should be dismissed because the actual owner of the property was not properly served and that Soho Properties, the developer-owned company, is not the actual owner of the site.

At a hearing in July before New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), Ground Zero Mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal, his attorney Shelly Friedman, and an architectural firm retained to argue against landmark status for the proposed mosque site, all testified that Soho Properties owned the subject property. You can view the documents here.

"The principal developer Sharif El-Gamal and his representatives repeatedly testified before the Landmarks Preservation Commission during the very hearing that is at issue in this case that Soho Properties owned the property. Now, they are alleging in court that their own testimony was inaccurate? This is merely an attempt to divert attention from the merits of the case and should raise questions to the public about the honesty and the intentions of the developers," said Joshpe.

The ACLJ, in addition to seeking to enjoin the owners from engaging in any demolition or construction at the site prior to the case being heard on the merits, is also seeking a full disclosure from Mayor Bloomberg's Office that would reveal the full extent of its political involvement. The Mayor's Office provided a partial disclosure to the ACLJ's Freedom of Information Law request, which revealed a close collaboration between City Hall and the mosque's developers. One email from El-Gamal's attorney, Shelly Friedman, even stated that LPC Chairman, Robert Tierney, was looking forward to "political cover" from local politicians.

The ACLJ represents Tim Brown, a firefighter and first responder who survived the Twin Towers' collapse and lost nearly 100 friends, and rejects an assertion by the City that Brown does not have legal standing to bring the suit.

The ACLJ also has heard from thousands of Americans who have signed on to the Committee to Stop the Ground Zero Mosque.

Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice focuses on constitutional law and is based in Washington, D.C. The ACLJ is online here.