By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 16, 2005
U.S. authorities have alleged for the first time that Abdurahman Alamoudi, a local activist who represented Muslims at the highest levels of the U.S. government, raised money for al Qaeda in the United States.
The assertion, in a Treasury Department statement, gave no details. Alamoudi's lawyer strongly denied the allegation and noted that his client had never been charged in court with supporting al Qaeda. Alamoudi, 53, an Eritrean immigrant who lived in Falls Church, was convicted last year of illegally accepting nearly $1 million from Libya.
If accurate, the new allegation would mark a stunning revelation about a man who for years served as a liaison between American Muslims and the U.S. government. Alamoudi, a founder of the American Muslim Council, played a key role in developing the Pentagon's Muslim chaplain program, traveled abroad as a speaker on behalf of the State Department and attended meetings at the White House.
The local Muslim community was shocked when Alamoudi was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in September 2003 on charges of accepting money from Libya, regarded by the U.S. government as a sponsor of terrorism. Alamoudi later admitted using the funds to recruit Saudi dissidents in London to arrange the assassination of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, at the request of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.
Alamoudi was sentenced in October to 23 years in prison, but the sentence could be reduced because of his ongoing cooperation with the U.S. government.
The new allegation about Alamoudi appeared in a communique in which the Treasury Department announced an addition to its list of terror supporters: the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. The London-based group is headed by Saad Faqih, one of the Saudi dissidents whom Alamoudi has acknowledged contacting for the assassination plot, which was never carried out. The Treasury statement accused Faqih's group of providing support to al Qaeda. The Saudi has denied the charge.
The Treasury release added that "according to information available to the U.S. government, the September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al Qaida, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al Qaida and raised money for al Qaida in the United States."
Alamoudi's attorney, Stanley Cohen, rejected the statement.
"There is no claim by prosecutors anywhere during the whole mess that's gone on for several years that Alamoudi systematically, intentionally, in any way, shape or form did anything to further the aims of al Qaeda anywhere," he said.
Treasury officials declined to provide details on when, where or how Alamoudi allegedly interacted with al Qaeda, saying the information was classified. But one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the allegation was based on new information that went beyond what was disclosed during Alamoudi's trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
During that trial, the prosecution had alleged that Alamoudi had served as an officer of charities that became involved with foreign groups suspected of terrorist ties. Cohen said in court papers that the foreign groups were not on the U.S. terrorist list at the time.
Alamoudi had for many years encouraged Muslims to become more involved in U.S. politics and society and had strongly denounced the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Staff writer Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.