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Nation in brief

Authorities charge Islamic activist

By Wire services
Published September 30, 2003

WASHINGTON - One of the country's leading Islamic activists, a chief architect of the Pentagon's Muslim chaplain program, was charged Monday with illegally accepting money from Libya for his efforts to persuade the United States to lift sanctions against that nation.

Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, who as leader of the American Muslim Council met frequently with senior Clinton and Bush administration officials, was arrested Sunday at Dulles International Airport as he entered the United States from Britain, six weeks after he allegedly attempted to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars into Syria. U.S. officials said the final destination of the money is under investigation.

Agents for the Department of Homeland Security alleged al-Amoudi received the $340,000 from Libyan officials as part of a long-standing relationship with that government. In exchange for financial assistance for Muslim activist groups he founded in the United States, authorities said, al-Amoudi was trying to help persuade the United States to lift sanctions against that nation.

Doing business with Libya remains illegal under U.S. law because of that nation's role in the 1988 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. The United Nations removed sanctions against Libya earlier this month, although the State Department still lists it as a sponsor of terrorism.

Al-Amoudi, 51, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Eritrea, is a senior executive of several charities in Virginia that were raided in March 2002 by law enforcement agents seeking evidence that the network of interlocking organizations was funneling money to terrorist groups, according to a search warrant issued at that time.

Kevin Delli-Colli, director of the Washington field office of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said al-Amoudi's home and several of those organizations were searched again by federal agents on Sunday, after his arrest.

Al-Amoudi's foundation is among the few Muslim groups that accredit Islamic chaplains for the Pentagon, and he is the second person affiliated with the chaplain's program arrested this month. James Yee, an Army captain and Muslim chaplain at the U.S. Navy prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested Sept. 10 on suspicion of espionage allegedly carrying sketches of the facility and documents related to interrogators and detainees.

Officials said Monday the timing of al-Amoudi's arrest was coincidental with the recent controversy over the Muslim chaplain's program.

According to documents unsealed Monday, al-Amoudi was stopped by British authorities in London on Aug. 16, as he prepared to board a flight to Damascus, Syria. The officials found "34 bundles of sequentially numbered $100 bills" in his suitcase.

Al-Amoudi used the American Muslim Council, which he founded in 1990, to create the program for Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military. He visited the Pentagon and military bases around the country, promoting the plan and recommending young Muslims to serve as clerics in uniform.

Also ...

SYRIAN ENVOY DENIES CONTACT WITH CLERK: Syria's ambassador to the United Nations said Monday his government has had no contact with a Syrian-born U.S. Air Force supply clerk charged with sending classified information about a prison camp in Cuba to the government in Damascus. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said the suspect, Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi, is a U.S. citizen and "I don't think Syria has any interest in dealing or in contacting such people."

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