Group Suing Commerce Department to Get Papers Relating to Boycott

The American Jewish Congress is filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Commerce Department, charging that it is withholding documents pertaining to the alleged cooperation of Baxter International Inc. with the Arab League boycott against Israel.

Baxter, a multibillion-dollar hospital and health care company based in Illinois, is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago on charges that it violated U.S. laws barring compliance with the boycott.

The charges stem from Baxter’s activities in the late 1980s when it closed a plant in Israel and agreed to build a medical factory in Syria. Although Baxter later scrapped its agreement with Syria, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating whether Baxter closed the Israeli plant in order to do business with Arab countries.

Beginning last February, AJCongress requested documents from the Commerce Department regarding Baxter’s business affairs, a right guaranteed under the Freedom of Information Act.

“In May, AJCongress’ final appeal within the Department of Commerce was denied, and so we were left with no alternative but to file suit in federal court to obtain these documents,” said Will Maslow, AJCongress’ general counsel and editor of its “”Boycott Report” newsletter.

Maslow said he is “particularly interested in a report prepared by Baxter’s special counsel that investigated boycott charges against the company.”

Baxter spokesman Geoffrey Fenton said the lawsuit is something between the Commerce Department and AJCongress.

“We’ve continued to cooperate with the ongoing investigation,” said Fenton. “But at the same time, Baxter continuously and strenuously denies any wrongdoing.”

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States News Service

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