Marlowe's Shade

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Businessman Under Investigation Has Links to Local Mosque

From the AP

Back in November I posted about the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester.

It appears now that one of their former members is under investigation for ties to al Qaida linked charities.

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to halt citizenship proceedings for a Quincy businessman who headed an Islamic charity so the FBI can continue investigating whether he lied about his involvement with organizations that include one associated with Osama bin Laden.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan asked that Emadeddin Z. Muntasser's naturalization hearing, scheduled for Thursday, be postponed. U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel did not immediately rule on the request and gave Muntasser until Wednesday to file his response.

Muntasser, whose citizenship application has been pending for more than two years, is "currently the subject of a pending federal criminal investigation regarding statements he made to the FBI," according to documents filed in federal court.

Muntasser, 40, is a Libyan national who owns the Logan Furniture chain and was a founding president of the Boston-based charity Care International.

His affiliation apparently goes back to his student days at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

When Muntasser applied for permanent U.S. residency in April 1992, he listed the organizations he'd been involved with - groups like the Graduate Student Organization at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater, and the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester.

Here is the byzantine account of his ties to dubious oraganizations:

[Care International], which is not affiliated with the global relief organization CARE International, says in its promotional materials that it was formed to help war orphans, widows and refugees in Muslim nations. But the organization has been scrutinized because of its links to groups that support terrorism.

In June, Muntasser sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, claiming his citizenship application had been needlessly delayed. In response, prosecutors filed documents in court revealing that Muntasser was the subject of an FBI investigation into statements he made during a 2003 interview with federal agents.

The documents indicate that Muntasser's involvement with Care and the Boston branch of a group founded by Osama bin Ladin in the 1980s has sparked attention from the FBI...He also listed "Alkifah Refugee Center, Boston Chapter."

Known by various spellings, the al-Khifa Refugee Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., was a recruitment office for Mektab al Khidmat, or MAK, which bin Laden co-founded in the 1980s to recruit mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, according to the 9-11 Commission.

The U.S. government has called MAK the "precursor organization to al-Qaida." Some people involved in the first World Trade Center bombing were connected to the Brooklyn center. President Bush designated MAK/al-Khifa a global terrorist organization soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Care International was incorporated in 1993 with Muntasser as president. Care used the same Commonwealth Avenue address as al-Khifa's Boston chapter, and in its literature, it praised mujahideen activities around the world, including Bosnia, Chechnya, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Al-Khifa's Boston newsletter, "Al-Hussam" or The Sword, eventually became the newsletter for Care. The Investigative Project, a Washington organization that tracks extremist Islamic groups, provided copies of the newsletter to The Associated Press.

Care has never had its assets frozen or been named by the government as a terrorist organization, but has had transactions with organizations that have.

According to testimony before a U.S. congressional committee, Care gave $180,384 from 1996 to 2000 to the Global Relief Foundation, a group that has had its assets frozen and been accused by the U.S. government of providing financial support to al-Qaida.

According to state charitable filings, Care also received a $5,750 donation in 2001 from GRF.

Muntasser's official relationship with Care ended in 1996 and it was not clear whether he continued to be involved with the organization.

Still, when Muntasser filed for citizenship in October 2002, the application asked if Muntasser had ever been a member of any organization, association or other group. He checked "no."

In January 2003, the Joint Terrorism Task Force served him with a subpoena. The court documents do not say what Muntasser told federal agents during the interview, although he told an immigration officer in April that the agents asked him "mainly about Care and also asked about Libya." Muntasser said he traveled extensively to his native country, in part to help his family reclaim property seized by the government.

He got a new attorney and amended his citizenship application in November 2003, adding organizations he'd been involved with, including Care and Al-Khifa. He also gave more information about his travels, which included a one-month trip in early 1995 to Afghanistan and Pakistan as a representative of Care.

The day after he amended his application, he was interviewed by an immigration official. Then, Muntasser was detained in March when he returned to the U.S. from abroad.

Interviewed under oath by an immigration officer on April 6, he discussed his travels to the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying he visited orphanages, schools and handicraft shops. In that interview, which is on file in federal court, Muntasser also talked about his work with Care, describing it as "humanitarian work."

With his citizenship application in limbo, he sued in June. In August, U.S. Attorney Sullivan asked the court to hand the case over to the Department of Homeland Security, "which is best suited to investigate Muntasser's eligibility for naturalization."

In his filing, Sullivan said that if Muntasser lied to the FBI, "that fact would bear on his moral character and his eligibility to naturalize as a United States citizen."

In a blistering response, Muntasser's attorney, Friedman, decried the "needless delay and endless investigations," surrounding his client's citizenship application. He dismissed the government's claims as "wild speculation."

"Muntasser has not been charged with any crime, let alone convicted," Friedman wrote.

Despite what his lawyer says, Mr Muntasser was not truthful in his application, and I would seem that there is a good case for his deportation.
papijoe 6:53 AM