Up to 20 Muslims called before grand jury
- Jim Redden
- Portland Tribune - News
Federal prosecutors said to be seeking more indictments
U.S. prosecutors apparently are hoping to indict more Portland Muslims on federal charges, according to legal sources contacted by the Portland Tribune.
Although none of the sources would talk on the record, they said up to 20 Muslims have been called before a federal grand jury in recent months.
'The federal government is supposed to use grand juries to charge people with crimes, not conduct investigations, so they must be trying to indict someone for something,' one lawyer said privately.
None of the sources would name any of those who have been called before the grand jury.
One could be an unidentified participant in a Sept. 29, 2001, shooting session at a rural gravel pit near Washougal, Wash. The person's name was blacked out of a Skamania County sheriff's report on the incident.
Five other people who were named in the report have been tied to an alleged al-Qaida terror cell. Four of them have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to wage war against the United States. The other was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Asked why the name was deleted from the report, Skamania County Sheriff Charles Bryan said, 'Because he's still under investigation.'
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Gorder would neither comment on the grand jury nor confirm that the unidentified person in the report is under investigation.
'We can't talk about grand juries,' he said.
Because the person has not yet been charged with any crime, he or she could be cooperating with the government.
The ongoing grand jury is adding to the anxiety felt in Portland's Muslim community, according to several attorneys contacted by the Tribune.
'They don't know who to trust anymore, and don't know if they can trust the government not to be arrested if they show up to testify before the grand jury,' one attorney said.
Portland is one of several cities across the country where the federal government claims it has uncovered potential Muslim terrorists or supporters.
The most prominent locally is Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, the religious leader of the Islamic Center of Portland, also known as Masjed As-Saber. He was arrested Sept. 8 by the Portland FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force on Social Security fraud charges.
Kariye's trial is set for Feb. 25. His attorney, Stanley Cohen, denies that Kariye has any terrorism connections and accuses the government of unfairly persecuting Muslims.
The most publicized arrests involve a group called the Portland Six. According to the government, Jeffrey Leon Battle, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Patrice Lumumba Ford and Jabis Abdulla Al Saoub tried to reach Afghanistan to fight against the American forces that toppled the Taliban. October Martinique Lewis allegedly stayed home and wired money to some of the men to aid their mission.
All except Al Saoub, who is still at large, are in the Multnomah County Detention Center awaiting trial later this year.
Four of the men took part in the gravel pit shooting session. Another participant, Ali Khaled Steitiye, has since been convicted on federal weapons and fraud charges. He is an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror cell case.