Skip to comments.Federal prosecutors cast net for Portland mosque leader
Posted on 08/13/2003 1:51:52 PM PDT by bicycle thug
Federal prosecutors disclosed Tuesday that prominent Islamic leader Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye is a target of a terrorism investigation because of "direct evidence" he helped a group of Portland men accused of trying to fight U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
Prosecutors say Kariye may have provided money and support "in other ways" to a group of six men who they say traveled to China in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Federal prosecutors said in court papers filed Tuesday afternoon that Kariye, 41, is a "target of the ongoing investigation," which means investigators are building a criminal case against him.
"The government possesses direct evidence of Kariye's involvement in the conspiracy," prosecutors said.
Kariye has not been charged in the case. He did not respond to messages seeking comment left at his home, with his attorneys and via e-mail to the Portland mosque he leads.
Prosecutors disclosed their investigation of Kariye as they sought a hearing on whether Kariye's lawyer had a conflict of interest in defending Patrice Lumumba Ford, one of the men charged in the Portland case. They backed up their filing with a secret affidavit from an FBI agent to the federal judge overseeing the case.
Kariye is the imam, or religious leader, of the Islamic Center of Portland, the state's largest mosque. He was thrust into national headlines in September 2002 when he was arrested at Portland International Airport as he was about to board a plane for the Middle East with his family. Investigators wrongly concluded his luggage contained traces of explosives, and he was charged at the time with Social Security fraud.
He pleaded guilty in March to Social Security and government health insurance fraud in a deal arranged by Stanley Cohen, his lawyer. Prosecutors said Cohen would have a conflict of interest if he became Ford's lawyer because Kariye may be charged in the case.
Cohen, a New York lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
Prosecutors said they told Cohen in May that Kariye was a target, just before the imam was sentenced on the fraud charges. Cohen gave no hint of that news in public comments after Kariye was sentenced to five years probation, saying the plea on minor charges was a "significant blow" to prosecutors. He said at the time Kariye had "zero" involvement with the group.
Tape conversation Federal prosecutors said evidence and interviews show that Kariye "may have" supported the group. They said one taped conversation between an informant and one defendant "indicates that Abdirahman Kariye may have helped with the provision of financial support." The prosecutors said additional evidence showed Kariye "may have supported the group in other ways" that were explained in the sealed FBI affidavit.
Prosecutors also said investigators are attempting to identify others who may have provided money or helped the group.
"It is not unreasonable to assume that the charged defendants were given some support and direction regarding their travel and arrival at their destination location, Afghanistan," prosecutors said.
With Kariye as a target, investigators are reaching into the leadership ranks of the Portland mosque, known as Masjed As-Saber. In a lawsuit against the federal government, the mosque said it suspected its leaders were under investigation, but it didn't name Kariye as a likely target. Alaa Abunijem, mosque president, wouldn't comment Tuesday, referring questions to Cohen.
The case started in October when six people were indicted for planning to help the Taliban and al-Qaida battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan. A seventh defendant -- Maher "Mike" Hawash -- was added earlier this year. The six men and one woman all attended the Portland mosque.
Trouble with visas Prosecutors say the group trained in the Portland area in 2001 before six men headed overseas in October 2001, en route to Afghanistan via China. The group never made it beyond China, abandoning their mission because they couldn't get the necessary visas. The woman stayed behind to provide money and communications, according to the indictment.
A federal affidavit later outlined the training, the trips and the movement of money from Portland overseas to the men. The affidavit relied on intercepted conversations, e-mail traffic and financial records.
Last week, one of the so-called "Portland Seven" -- Hawash, a Hillsboro computer engineer -- pleaded guilty and admitted he and his friends were prepared to die as martyrs in the fight against U.S. forces. Hawash is cooperating with investigators and is expected to testify if the case goes to trial in January.
Five defendants have pleaded not guilty. One is a fugitive.
Ford last week petitioned the federal court to allow Cohen to take over for Whitney Boise, a court-appointed Portland lawyer. Ford said his defense has been impaired by what he said was Boise's inability to work with the Muslim community. Boise declined to comment.
Ford said friends, family and the community raised enough money to allow him to hire Cohen, who has made a specialty of representing targets of federal terror investigations nationwide. Ford said he was willing to waive his rights to later claim his attorney had a conflict of interest.
Federal prosecutors said in Tuesday's filing that even if Ford waived his rights, the government remained concerned about one attorney representing two people who might have information against each other. They want the judge to settle the issue.
Earlier this year while Kariye awaited prosecution, his supporters criticized the government's case. They said terror investigators were unfairly targeting a man who had devoted his life to helping Muslims in Oregon and across the nation. Leaders of major Muslim organizations sought leniency for the Somalian who came to Oregon in 1982. Les Zaitz: 503-221-8181; firstname.lastname@example.org Mark Larabee: 503-294-7664; email@example.com
True, but be careful about mentioning pies, after Ralph Nader was assaulted with one the Secret Service will likely be on the lookout for pies at all the presidential election events this next year. ;-)