Ex-Congressman Indicted In Terrorism-Funding Case
Thursday, January 17, 2008
A former Republican congressman from Michigan who has dedicated himself to building ties between Christians and Muslims was indicted in federal court yesterday for alleged ties to an Islamic charity that sent money to suspected terrorists.
Mark D. Siljander, who served more than two terms in the House in the 1980s and later ran as a Republican candidate for the House from Northern Virginia, was charged with money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
The indictment alleges that he lied to the FBI about his work on behalf of the Islamic American Relief Agency, which the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist organization in 2004.
The case appears to be unique in accusing a former member of Congress of conspiring with a designated terrorist group, said Justice Department officials and national security experts. The allegations also are unusual because they involve a former politician with strong Christian support who is charged for his connections to alleged Islamic militants.
After his first House election in 1981, Siljander said he thought he won because he often wore a "Jesus First" button and because "God wanted me in."
Siljander, 56, is founder and chairman of Global Strategies in Great Falls, a public relations and marketing firm, and is slated to publish a book in June focused on bridging the divide between Christians and Muslims.
The charity, which was based in Columbia, Mo., allegedly paid Siljander $50,000 in March 2004 to lobby the Senate Finance Committee in an attempt to be kept off a list of terrorist organizations. Senate records indicate that Siljander has not been registered as a lobbyist since 1998.
According to the indictment, the money was stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Siljander lied to federal agents about his role.
His attorney, James R. Hobbs of Kansas City, Mo., said in a statement yesterday that his client "denies the allegations in the indictment and will enter a not-guilty plea."
Siljander "is internationally recognized for his good faith attempts to bridge the gap between Christian and Muslim communities worldwide" and was never involved "in any prohibited financial transactions with any U.S.-designated terrorist," Hobbs said.
But Kenneth L. Wainstein, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement that the "indictment paints a troubling picture of an American charity organization that engaged in transactions for the benefit of terrorists and conspired with a former United States Congressman."
The allegations against Siljander are part of a 42-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, which has been conducting an investigation of the charity. It closed in October 2004 when it was added to the designated terrorist list.