Ex-lawmaker charged in terror conspiracy
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 10
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
"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