Convictions reinstated for 3 Islamic charity leaders

By Rodrique Ngowi
Associated Press / September 2, 2011

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A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated the conviction of a Libyan man and two associates who were accused of conspiring to dupe the US government into granting tax-exempt status to a defunct Muslim charity by hiding its pro-jihad activities.

The appeals court reinstated the jury’s guilty verdict against Libya’s Emadeddin Muntasser, as well as Samir al-Monla and Muhammed Mubayyid. The three founded and led the defunct Boston-based Care International Inc.

The organization described its mission as helping war orphans, widows, and refugees in Muslim nations. But prosecutors said it was a successor to a US branch of a group founded by Osama bin Laden to recruit, fund, and transport Muslim militants involved in armed conflicts around the world.

The group also distributed a newsletter and published a website promoting jihad and supported extremists.

A jury found the three men guilty in January 2008 of conspiring to trick the government into awarding their organization tax-exempt status by hiding its pro-jihad activities.

Jurors also convicted Muntasser of lying to federal officials and Mubayyid, a Lebanese national, of making false statements to federal officials and filing false tax returns.

But a federal judge overturned the tax conspiracy conviction, saying the evidence did not support the verdict.

The government and defendants appealed. Prosecutors argued that although facts proved at trial differed from those alleged in the indictment, they did not alter the crime charged. Muntasser and Mubayyid claimed that the “terrorism’’ evidence admitted to prove the conspiracy charges was so extensive, inflammatory, and prejudicial that it must have spilled over into the jury’s consideration of their guilt on other charges.

The appeals court sided with prosecutors in a ruling released yesterday, saying, “The jury asked several incisive questions during deliberation that demonstrated its discriminating appraisal of all the evidence.’’

The case has been sent back to the district court, and a judge there will sentence Monla and re-sentence Muntasser and Mubayyid.

Attorney Michael C. Andrews, who represented Mubayyid, said he was disappointed by the ruling and that his client has maintained his innocence from the beginning. He said Mubayyid was deported about two years ago and is now living in Australia after serving a year in prison for conviction on other charges in the case.

Attorneys for Monla and Muntasser could not immediately be reached for comment.

Muntasser was born in Libya and founded Care International. Mubayyid, the group’s former treasurer, was born in Lebanon. Monla, the group’s president from 1996 to 1998, was born in Kuwait and is a US citizen.

Their charity group, which was not affiliated with the well-known global relief organization CARE International, raised $1.7 million in donations from 1993 to 2001.

Prosecutors acknowledged Care did some legitimate charity work, but said the group concealed noncharitable activities from the government.

Prosecutors said, among other things, the men didn’t disclose that Care had ties to Al Kifah Refugee Center in New York, which was linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.