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Feds drop charges against Al Haramain Foundation of Ashland

One year after announcing the closing of Al Haramain, the feds drop charges against the "functionless shell"
On September 10th, 2004, the Oregonian reported in a front page story about the closing of Al Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. of Ashland, an Islamic charity started in 1997. The U.S. Treasury Department accused the charity of having direct links to Osama bin-Laden, and of sending money to Chechen fighters in 2000.

That announcement by the Treasury Department came roughly a week after the terrible siege in Beslan, Russia, in which Chechen fighters stormed an elementary school and held the kids and their parents and teachers hostage for days, before Russian security forces moved in, prompting the Chechens to set off bombs, killing more than 300 people. Also, the announcement was on the eve of the 3rd anniversary of 9/11. It may have been one or both of those factors which led to the announcement, and to the front page Oregonian article on September 10th. But 2004 was also the summer or terror warnings, most notably the heightened terror alert that coincided with the start of the Democratic National Convention in early August 2004. Those terror alerts turned out to be based on four year old information--pre-9/11 information.

Those terror alerts were largely seen as a distraction, meant to take the limelight away from the DNC. When I saw the Oregonian's front page article about Al Haramain Foundation, I thought along these same lines, that the announcement by the Treasury Department was meant to take advantage of the 9/11 anniversary by bringing attention to the "war on terror" status quo, and diverting attention away from more pressing issues, before the election.

Exactly one year later, on Saturday, September 10th, there was a tiny mention in the Oregonian of the Al Haramain case. A federal judge in Eugene dropped charges against Al Haramain, as reported on page B2 of the Metro/NW section. The article states that federal prosecutors are dropping the case because they view Al Haramain as a "funcionless shell." The charity is no longer operating. In February of this year, the charity was indicted on two tax charges for the alleged laundering of $150,000 in donations which was allegedly funneled to Chechen fighters in 2000.

The 2005 article states that Pete Seda, who established Al Haramain in Ashland, is considered an international fugitive wanted by federal authorities. It's unclear if this is due to the February indictment of Al Haramain on tax charges. If it is, it seems that since these charges have been dropped, then Pete Seda would no longer be a wanted man.

The September 10th, 2004 front page article, which showed a picture of Seda, reported that: "Al Haramain's founder, Pete Seda, an Iranian immigrant also known as Abu Yunus, was not designated a terrorist supporter [by the Treasury Department]." It is also noted that Seda left Oregon for the Middle East in 2003. The 2005 article notes that Seda is also known as Perouz Sedaghaty.

It's interesting to note that in the summer of 2004, the pre-election summer of terror alerts, the Treasury Department's announcement of the closing of Al-Haramain led to a 23 paragraph front page story in the Oregonian. The announcement that federal prosecutors are dropping the case against Al-Haramain, viewing it as a "functionless shell," led to a 6 paragraph article on B2 of the Metro/NW section. Understandably, the front page of the paper has been devoted to post-Katrina news for awhile. But the Al Haramain update didn't even make the front page of the Metro/NW section, much less anywhere in the A section.