Middle East studies in the News
U.S. Links Scholar to Terror Funding
by Glenn R. Simpson
WASHINGTON—Federal prosecutors in Virginia have implicated a prominent U.S. Muslim religious scholar in possible involvement with terrorism funding.
In a filing late Friday with the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia, prosecutors disclosed that one subject of their probe is also an unindicted co-conspirator in a separate terrorism investigation in Florida involving former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian and his associates. A federal grand jury in Tampa, Fla., recently handed up a 50-count indictment that charges terrorism financing and racketeering against Mr. Arian and seven associates accused of belonging to or supporting the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The unindicted co-conspirator isn't named in the new filing, but the Arian indictment and other records indicate the person is religious scholar Taha Alawani, a widely respected religious leader in the U.S. Muslim community. Mr. Alawani was recently featured in a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal for his role in training Muslim chaplains serving in the U.S. military and U.S. prisons, some of whom have been accused of spreading anti-Western Islamic theology. Mr. Alawani's home and offices were raided last year by federal antiterrorism agents, but in a subsequent interview he strongly denied any involvement in supporting terrorism.
Mr. Alawani's attorney, Nancy Luque, declined comment on the new filing. "I'm not going to comment on a document that's supposed to be sealed," she said. The Justice Department motion was a public record Friday, but it may be sealed today.
The Virginia probe involves a prominent group of Muslim activists. The new Justice Department filing says the activists are being investigated in part because of their association with Mr. Arian, who is accused of acting as a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad official. Records show various organizations headed by Mr. Arian in Florida received money from groups set up by the Virginia group, including the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which Mr. Alawani helped found. Investigators say they think the money originally came from wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia.
According to last month's Arian indictment, "Unindicted Co-Conspirator Number Five" wrote a 1992 letter telling Mr. Arian that his group in Virginia viewed itself "as part of and an extension" of Mr. Arian's group in Florida. Other records indicate that Mr. Alawani wrote the letter. The Tampa indictment accuses Mr. Arian's group of involvement in numerous suicide bombings and other killings in Israel, including of Americans.
A 100-page search-warrant affidavit obtained by the Customs Service to justify a raid against the Virginia groups last spring remains under seal and is the subject of a disclosure battle that has reached the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond. Most of the filings in the case are also under seal.
The new Justice Department filing proposes a partial unsealing of the search- warrant affidavit at the behest of the news media. It states that the Arian probe in Florida "was one of the investigations outside the Eastern District of Virginia described in the search warrant affidavit which we sought to safeguard by sealing the affidavit," U.S attorney Paul McNulty told the court. Now that Mr. Arian has been indicted, the secrecy is no longer necessary, Mr. McNulty said.
Mr. McNulty's filing is also potentially subject to seal, but when it was filed shortly before the Alexandria, Va., courthouse closed Friday, it was a public record.
The filing also discloses a major twist in the legal battle over the search warrant. The subjects of the Northern Virginia probe, a group of Muslim businessmen and political activists who constitute much of the cream of the U.S. Muslim political establishment, long have sought to unseal the affidavit. But last week they suddenly reversed themselves, and Ms. Luque asked the Fourth Circuit to keep the document sealed in its entirety.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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