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Ex-lawmaker charged in terror conspiracy

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080117/ap_on_go_ot/ex_congressman_indicted Ex-lawmaker charged in terror conspiracy By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2008
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      Ex-lawmaker charged in terror conspiracy

      By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 10
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - A former congressman and delegate to the
      United Nations was indicted Wednesday on charges of
      working for an alleged terrorist fundraising ring that
      sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida supporter who
      has threatened U.S. and international troops in

      Mark Deli Siljander, a Michigan Republican when he was
      in the House, was charged with money laundering,
      conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying
      about being hired to lobby senators on behalf of an
      Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly
      sending funds to terrorists.

      The 42-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District
      Court in Kansas City, Mo., accuses the Islamic
      American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for
      the lobbying — money that turned out to be stolen from
      the U.S. Agency for International Development.

      The charges paint "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 to convert stolen federal
      funds into payments for his advocacy," Assistant
      Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said.

      Siljander, who served in the House from 1981-1987, was
      appointed by President Reagan to serve as a U.S.
      delegate to the United Nations for one year in 1987.

      Calls to Silander's business in a Washington suburb
      went unanswered Wednesday. His attorney in Kansas
      City, James R. Hobbs, said Siljander would plead not
      guilty to the charges against him.

      "Mark Siljander vehemently denies the allegations in
      the indictment," Hobbs said in a statement. He
      described Siljander as "internationally recognized for
      his good faith attempts to bridge the gap between
      Christian and Muslim communities worldwide" and
      plugged the ex-congressman's upcoming book on that

      The charges are part of a long-running case against
      the charity, which had been based in Columbia, Mo.,
      before it was designated in 2004 by the Treasury
      Department as a suspected fundraiser for terrorists.
      The indictment alleges that IARA also employed a
      fundraising aide to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida
      leader blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.

      IARA has long denied allegations that it has financed
      terrorists. The group's attorney, Shereef Akeel of
      Troy, Mich., rejected the charges outlined in
      Wednesday's indictment.

      "For four years I have not seen a single piece of a
      document that shows anyone did anything wrong," Akeel

      The government accuses IARA of sending approximately
      $130,000 to help Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United
      States has designated a global terrorist. The money,
      sent to bank accounts in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2003
      and 2004, was masked as donations to an orphanage
      located in buildings that Hekmatyar owned.

      Authorities described Hekmatyar as an Afghan
      mujahedeen leader who participated in and supported
      terrorist acts by al-Qaida and the Taliban. The
      Justice Department said Hekmatyar "has vowed to engage
      in a holy war against the United States and
      international troops in Afghanistan."

      Siljander was elected to Congress initially with the
      support of fundamentalist Christian groups, and said
      at the time he won because "God wanted me in." In
      1983, he claimed that "Arab terrorists" planned to
      kill him during a pro-Jewish rally; the FBI and Secret
      Service said they knew of no such plot. Siljander
      attended the rally wearing a bulletproof vest.

      After leaving the government, he founded the
      Washington-area consulting group Global Strategies
      Inc. and, according to the indictment, was hired by
      IARA in March 2004 to lobby the Senate Finance
      Committee to remove the charity from the panel's list
      of suspected terror fundraisers.

      It's not clear whether Siljander ever engaged in the
      lobbying push, said John Wood, U.S. attorney in Kansas
      City. Nevertheless, IARA paid Siljander with money
      that was part of U.S. government funding awarded to
      the charity years earlier for relief work it promised
      to perform in Africa, the indictment says.

      In interviews with the FBI in December 2005 and April
      2007, Siljander denied doing any lobbying for IARA.
      The money, he told investigators, was merely a
      donation from IARA to help him write a book about
      Islam and Christianity, the indictment says.

      In 2004, the FBI raided the IARA's USA headquarters
      and the homes of people affiliated with the group
      nationwide. Since then, the 20-year-old charity has
      been unable to raise money and its assets have been

      The charity has argued that it is a separate
      organization from the Islamic African Relief Agency, a
      Sudanese group suspected of financing al-Qaida. A
      federal appeals court in Washington ruled in February
      that the two groups were linked.

      In all, Siljander, IARA and five of its officers were
      charged with various counts of theft, money
      laundering, aiding terrorists and conspiracy.

      "By bringing this case in the middle of America, we
      seek to make it harder for terrorists to do business
      halfway around the globe," Wood said.


      Associated Press writers Margaret Stafford and Maria
      Sudekum Fisher in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to
      this report.
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