Muslim Activist Accused of Ties to Libya
A Muslim activist whose Virginia home was searched as part of a federal probe of terrorist financing has been arrested on charges of having illegal dealings with Libya.
A criminal complaint unsealed Monday alleged that Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi violated U.S. law by accepting, either personally or through the American Muslim Foundation he heads, $10,700 from the Libyan mission to the United Nations and by failing to disclose numerous trips to Libya on his passport.
Such actions are illegal under U.S. economic sanctions imposed in 1986 after terrorist bombings tied to Libya in Vienna and Rome.
Al-Amoudi, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Ethiopia, made an initial court appearance in Alexandria, Va., but neither he nor his attorney would comment on the charges. He was arrested Sunday at Washington Dulles International Airport after a flight from London, officials said.
The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and up to $250,000 in fines, prosecutors said.
A federal affidavit filed to support the complaint alleged numerous links between Al-Amoudi and Libyan entities. Al-Amoudi, 51, contended that he was constantly looking for money for the Islamic advocacy group he heads and that he sought out Libya because it had renounced terrorism.
In August, the affidavit said, customs officials in Great Britain found $340,000 in sequentially numbered $100 bills in Al-Amoudi’s luggage. Al-Amoudi, who was not charged in that incident, told the officials that he received the money from an unknown individual at a London hotel after visiting the government-controlled Libyan Islamic Call Society based in Tripoli.
That happened after Al-Amoudi “had a series of meetings with White House officials” about gaining access to Libyan assets frozen after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, the affidavit said.
Al-Amoudi told officials “he felt obliged to ‘bridge the gulf’ between his adopted country” and Libya, it said.
The United Nations lifted its sanctions against Libya earlier this month.
The U.S. sanctions remain, however, because the government still considers Libya a sponsor of terrorism.
Al-Amoudi’s home in Falls Church, Va., was among those searched in March 2002 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as part of a federal probe into the financing of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Michael A. Mason, chief of the FBI’s Washington field office, said that authorities have developed a significant amount of information about Al-Amoudi’s activities and that more charges are possible.
Al-Amoudi is a founder of the American Muslim Council and the related American Muslim Foundation, currently serving as the latter group’s president. The organizations have sought to be seen as mainstream Islamic groups, even though charities linked to the groups have had their assets frozen by the government for suspected terrorism ties.
In June 2002, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III spoke before the American Muslim Council to thank Muslims for helping in the war on terrorism. Yet Al-Amoudi has spoken favorably of some terrorist groups, urging an October 2000 rally outside the White House to support Hamas and Hezbollah in their fight against Israel.
“It’s an occupation, and Hamas is fighting to end an occupation,” Al-Amoudi is quoting as saying in the federal affidavit.
Al-Amoudi also is co-founder of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veteran Affairs Council, which helps the U.S. military select Muslim chaplains for the armed forces, a system that has recently drawn criticism from Congress after the arrest of a Muslim chaplain on suspicion of spying.
Capt. James Y. Yee is being held without charge at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., amid an investigation into possible security breaches at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mason said that he knew of no connection between Al-Amoudi and Yee “at this time,” but that the investigation was continuing.