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Ex-US congressman pleads guilty to terrorist conspiracy

Mark Deli Siljander has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.



Washington: A former US congressman has pleaded guilty in connection with a terrorist financing conspiracy that sent money to al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the US Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Mark Deli Siljander, who represented Michigan in the House of Representatives from 1981-87 and was a delegate to the UN under president Ronald Reagan, pleaded guilty to acting as an agent for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism, according to Beth Phillips, US Attorney for the western district of Missouri.

Siljander was the last of five co-defendants in the case that involved the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) of Columbia, Missouri. IARA was shut down by the US government in 2004 for connections to terrorism.

The Justice Department had charged that IARA, whose headquarters were in Sudan, also funnelled money to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the militant Afghan leader and former prime minister of Afghanistan who leads the country`s second-largest insurgent group.

Siljander, 59, was hired by the IARA to lobby for the group`s removal from a Senate list of charities suspected of having terrorist ties, justice officials said. He also failed to register as a foreign agent.

He told investigators he had received tens of thousands of dollars from IARA to write a book about bridging the gap between Islam and Christianity.

"Siljander repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors investigating serious crimes related to national security," Phillips said.

Siljander was the last of the five collaborators to plead guilty. He faces 15 years in prison and a fine of up to USD 500,000.

The other defendants were Abdel Azim El-Siddig, a former IARA fundraiser; Mubarak Hamed, 53, a Sudan native and US citizen who raised USD 1-3 million a year for IARA and illegally transferred some funds to Iraq; Ali Mohamed Bagegni, 56, a Libyan native and US citizen; and Ahmad Mustafa, 57, an Iraqi citizen and legal permanent US resident alien.

IANS

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