Rep. James P. Moran Jr. has reversed his previous position and returned contributions from three officers of Muslim organizations in Northern Virginia that were raided by federal agents last March in an investigation into terrorist financing.
"I don't want any contributors to my campaign contributing to any individuals or organizations even inadvertently that might fund terrorism or organizations involved in terrorism," Moran (D-Va.) said in an interview yesterday.
Moran refunded $3,750 to Hisham Y. Altalib, $3,950 to M. Yaqub Mirza and $3,750 to Jamal M. Barzinji, all of Herndon, on Oct. 16, according to federal campaign finance reports. Moran's spokesman said the amounts were the total given by the men in all of Moran's campaigns.
Federal agents served warrants last winter at the Herndon-based Saar Foundation, Safa Trust and International Institute of Islamic Thought, which, U.S. authorities say, are part of a complex Saudi-based financial empire that has allegedly handled $1.8 billion since the mid-1990s and sent some of it to groups allegedly linked to terrorists. No individuals have been charged.
Mirza is president of the Saar Foundation and vice president of Safa Trust; Barzinji, a president of the trust and institute secretary; and Altalib, treasurer for the trust and institute vice president.
Shortly after the warrants were served, Moran said he knew of no illegal activity by the donors and declined to return the money.
"In our system of justice, you're innocent until proven guilty -- not the reverse," Moran said. "To the extent they contribute in any knowing way to an organization that supports or funds terrorism, I would certainly return any contribution, and I would expect them to be prosecuted as well."
Yesterday, Moran said he still feels that way "strongly," but subsequent media accounts about the organizations "raised sufficient questions in my mind, that I would rather be safe than sorry . . . that I would rather not take any chances."
Moran's office said that it inadvertently failed to return a contribution of $500 on Jan. 5, 2001, from Taha J. Alalwani, founder of the institute, and would do so.
Moran said he would also return contributions from individuals identified since March as having come under federal investigation, including $500 from Huda Totonji, a relative of Saar Foundation founder Ahmad Totonji; and $250 from Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a Howard University professor who was jailed for six months in 1998 after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating money laundering in the United States by Hamas. He was never charged with a crime.