Amnesty International Ireland is being threatened with criminal charges after it refused to return an illegal donation from U.S. billionaire George Soros to fund its pro-abortion campaign.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) has ordered Amnesty to return €137,000 (US$162,210) to Soros' Open Societies Foundation as the grant violates a law that prohibits donations of over €100 (US$118) from overseas groups for "electoral purposes."
The Soros-backed organization donated the money to help Amnesty in its campaign to overturn Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which prohibits abortion, Catholic Herald reported.
The commission warned Amnesty that it could face criminal charges and up to three years imprisonment if it does not return the donation.
Amnesty insisted that it would disobey any court order to return the money, arguing that Ireland's law against receiving large foreign money to further political causes was "unfair."
The group also argued SIPOC's ruling contradicts previous correspondence between them, claiming that the commission had previously said that the payment did not break the law.
Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty in Ireland, said that the ruling "overlooks the fact that Amnesty International is completely independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion" and accused the commission of being influenced by pro-life activists.
"Despite Sipo's own concerns about the vagueness of the act it is now using this to unfairly apply the law to Amnesty's work," O'Gorman said.
Amnesty disclosed that it is now taking legal advice on its options, noting that returning the Soros grant, which accounts for nearly 2.5 percent of its total annual income, would set a "dangerous precedent."
Several pro-life groups in Ireland have condemned Amnesty for its defiance of the country's laws.
Cora Sherlock of the Irish Pro-Life Campaign accused the international organization of acting like it is above the law and hiding behind the term "human rights" to justify its actions.
"It is important to recall that the Open Society Foundation stated when giving the money to Amnesty that it was to assist the coordination of groups in Ireland with a view to repealing the 8th Amendment and taking away legal protection for the baby in the womb," Sherlock said.
"The involvement of this US based organisation in the Irish abortion debate represents a gross interference in our democracy and in safeguarding the right to life. Amnesty should immediately return the money and stop trying to portray itself as a victim in all of this," she added.
Ireland is expected to hold a referendum that would determine whether to safeguard or reject the Eighth Amendment in the summer of 2018.