The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Feb. 23 in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, on whether a federal law that prohibits providing material support to terrorism violates the First Amendment. The challenge was filed by the Humanitarian Law Project (HLP) on behalf on several groups that wanted to support Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), both of which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the US government.
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down portions of the “material support” law and upheld others in 2007, leading both the US government and HLP to appeal. Several rights groups have filed briefs in support of HLP’s position. At this week’s session, counsel for HLP argued that the law violates the First Amendment right to free speech, while US Solicitor General Elena Kagan argued that is a “vital weapon” for combating terrorism. Several justices appeared to express concern that the law was overly restrictive. (Jurist, Feb. 22)