Bail denied for Islamic fund-raiser charged with perjury

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Associated Press WriterCHICAGO (AP) -- Under heavy security, a federal magistrate judge refused Tuesday to grant bond to a jailed Islamic charity director charged with lying about ties to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

"The reality is that this is not a simple perjury case -- it is a perjury charge in the context of a terrorism financing investigation," U.S. Magistrate Judge Ian H. Levin said in denying the bail request.

Enaam Arnaout, 34, head of Benevolence International Foundation, an Islamic charity that federal officials say may be financing terrorism, has a strong motive for fleeing the country, Levin said.

"The defendant knows that there is a substantial and determined ongoing federal investigation to link him to and-or accuse him of more serious terrorism charges," Levin said. He also said Arnaout has the means to flee, with family in Saudi Arabia and many contacts elsewhere.

"The court finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required" if he is released on bond, Levin said in a five-page opinion.

Arnaout was returned to the government's Metropolitan Correctional Center where he has been held since his April 30 arrest. He showed no emotion as Levin handed down his decision.

Arnaout attorney Joseph Duffy said an appeal was likely.

Before being allowed into the courtroom, reporters and spectators were sniffed by a yellow Labrador retriever named Comet who is trained to detect explosives.

Previous hearings in the case were not surrounded by any special security. Marshals declined to comment on what brought on the change.

Benevolence International Foundation, based in suburban Palos Hills, is one of two Chicago-area Islamic charities whose assets were frozen Dec. 14 in the terrorism investigation. Its funds were also frozen at the time.

The group, which has branches throughout the Mideast and elsewhere, filed suit against the government, asking for the release of its funds and the return of its papers. As part of the suit, Arnaout filed papers saying that the group does not support terrorism or military activity.

The papers were signed under oath and the government charged Arnaout and the organization with perjury.

According to the government, Arnaout has maintained a correspondence with bin Laden and used the Benevolence organization to transfer money on behalf of bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

Federal prosecutors have pointed to photos taken in a raid on the group's office in Bosnia on March 19. Bin Laden is seen in one photo and Arnaout in another. Prosecutors say the photos were taken in the same place, possibly Afghanistan, at the same time.

They also say among other things that Arnaout lied when he said that Benevolence does not support military activities. They say the group has provided $685,000 to rebels fighting the Russian army in Chechnya.

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