Russian agent says charity tied to terrorism
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 16:55
Eugene: A former Russian counterterrorism agent has testified that an Islamic charity that once had its US headquarters in the state of Oregon was financing Islamic fighters battling the Russian Army in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

However, under cross-examination, Col Sergey Ignatchenko acknowledged that the names he had of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation officials tied to terrorism did not include defendant Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty.

"I never knew about him, I never heard about him," he said yesterday.

Ignatchenko, now head of communications for the Russian Federal Security Service, testified via live video feed from former KGB headquarters in Moscow as a prosecution witness in the US District Court sentencing of Seda.

His remarks were interpreted by a translator in court.

Ignatchenko testified that his agency had information that Al-Haramain financed a terrorist training camp in Chechnya and was in contact with the leaders of Muslim fighters but did not know the specific source of the funds.

"We didn't know which country it came from," he said. Judge Michael Hogan postponed sentencing, saying he needed a couple of weeks to prepare a written response to legal issues, particularly whether to apply the so-called terrorism enhancement that would give Seda the maximum eight years in prison for his convictions for tax fraud and conspiracy.

A former Ashland, Oregon, peace activist and tree surgeon, Seda is an Iranian-born, naturalised US citizen and a co-founder of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in the US.

He was convicted last month of tax fraud and conspiracy for helping another official of Al-Haramain smuggle USD 150,000 out of the US to Saudi Arabia in 2000. The tax fraud charge refers to efforts to cover up the trail of the money.

Though Seda has never been charged with terrorism, prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence of eight years in prison by offering evidence that Seda intended the money to support guerrillas fighting against a country with which the United State was at peace.


First Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 16:55

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