Feds tie Kariyes charity to al-Qaida
Global Relief Foundation accused of funding terror; lawyer says sheik cut ties to the group years ago
A Muslim charity co-founded by Sheik Muhamed Abdirahman Kariye of Portland officially has been accused by the federal government of funding the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Kariye has not been charged with any crime related to the charity, the Global Relief Foundation.
On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department formally declared the Global Relief Foundation to be a 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist.' The federal government had frozen its assets last December.
Stanley Cohen, Kariye's New York attorney, said the designation is nothing but politics. Cohen insisted that the government has no new evidence against the charity.
'They have only been charged in the court of John Ashcroft and the news media,' Cohen said.
But terrorism expert Matthew Levitt said the designation is long overdue.
'It's a terrorist organization through and through,' said Levitt, a retired FBI analyst who now serves as a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
Levitt told a congressional subcommittee in August that the foundation was part of a network of Muslim charities that helped finance global terrorism.
Kariye is the religious leader of the Islamic Center of Portland, also known as Masjed As-Saber, in Southwest Portland. The center is being investigated by the Portland FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Kariye was arrested Sept. 13 by the task force on two counts of Social Security fraud. He was released Oct. 11 on $250,000 bail.
Kariye and four other Muslims founded the charity in Chicago Ridge, Ill., in December 1992. Kariye also was listed as a director in the foundation's first annual report.
Cohen insists that Kariye has not been involved with the Global Relief Foundation for nearly a decade.
'He was one of a number of founders and hasn't been involved in its activities for eight to 10 years,' Cohen said.
The $5 million-a-year foundation is one of the largest Muslim charities in the country. It has its headquarters in Bridgeview, Ill., and has satellite offices in Pakistan, Belgium and France. Much of its money has gone to health clinics in Israeli-occupied territories, refugee camps in Kosovo and mosques and Muslim schools in the United States.
The federal government has long suspected that the charity also has helped fund al-Qaida. Among other things, Treasury officials claim that a top al-Qaida financier named Mohammed Zouaydi has given more than $200,000 to the organization.
The government also claims that NATO forces found documents linking the foundation to al-Qaida when it raided the charity's Kosovo offices in late December 2001.
The raid followed the arrest of a senior foundation official, Rabih Haddad, on charges that he overstayed his visa. Haddad was arrested last December on the same day the Treasury Department raided the organization's headquarters and froze its assets.
Cohen says the terrorism designation is an attempt by the Bush administration to support Israel.
'Israel has been trying to shut it down for years because it supports Palestinian causes,' he said.