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Islamic charity attorney denies terrorism support accusations
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The attorney for an Islamic charity whose Columbia, Mo., office was searched by FBI agents last week says the charity has no ties to global terrorism or a group of similar name in Sudan that is under federal investigation.
Attorney Shareef Akeel denied the Islamic American Relief Agency-USA had a connection to the Sudan-based Islamic African Relief Agency that the Bush administration has accused of helping raise more than $5 million to finance Osama bin Laden and other terrorists. Akeel called the Columbia operation a "completely separate organization."
"IARA-USA condemns any act of terrorism, any support of terrorism and any heinous use of a charity to support terrorism," Akeel told The Kansas City Star, speaking on behalf of Mubarak Hamed, former president and executive director of the Islamic American Relief Agency.
Akeel has litigated for people of Arab descent in discrimination cases since Sept. 11, 2001, and leads a class-action lawsuit for Iraqi detainees abused at Abu Ghraib prison.
Last week, the FBI's regional terrorism task force served a search warrant to the IARA's office in Columbia and took with them computers and records. Authorities also searched a storage locker and Hamed's home, as well as the home of a contributor in Wolcott, Conn.
Following the search, Majeed Sharif, president of the United Muslim Mosque in Connecticut acknowledged doing humanitarian work for the charity in Africa.
No one has been arrested or charged in what the FBI has described as a criminal investigation, but up to 90 individuals have been interviewed.
The Treasury Department designated IARA and five senior officials of the charity as supporters of international terrorism. The charity's assets and accounts were frozen and the department made it illegal to contribute to the organization.
The Treasury Department previously said it tied the charity's office in Columbia to IARA's headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, founded four years before the mid-Missouri office opened in 1985.
The Missouri branch of IARA was correctly included in the sanctions, department officials said.
Akeel denied connections with the agency in Khartoum.
"All I can tell you is IARA-USA has its own board. It's a separate entity that's organized in America. It has a completely separate organization than the one in Sudan," Akeel said. "IARA-USA had these orphan sponsor programs, and the kids relied on those sponsorships. The beneficiaries will really feel it because their livelihood has been taken away."
The IARA-USA placed a notice on its Web site to suspend charitable contributions.
Akeel said he was retained by the charity a few days ago and found its books to be properly audited.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com