EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors plan to call a Russian intelligence officer to support arguments that the co-founder of an Islamic charity in Oregon had terrorism links and should get the maximum eight years in prison.
Former Ashland peace activist and tree surgeon Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, was due in U.S. District Court in Eugene on Tuesday. He is to be sentenced on convictions for helping to smuggle $150,000 out of the country to Saudi Arabia in 2000 as part of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation's efforts to support Islamic fighters battling Russian forces in Chechnya.
Court papers show prosecutors want to sentence Seda, a naturalized U.S. citizen born and raised in Iran, to eight years in prison, the maximum allowed for his convictions for tax fraud and conspiracy. The tax fraud stems from filing a false income tax report covering up the money trail.
Defense lawyers have filed court papers arguing the terrorism links are unfounded, and Seda should be freed on probation because he has already served enough time in jail.
"Here, much of the evidence presented by the government, and relied upon by the presentence report writer, are the uncorroborated opinions of case agents, multiple layers of hearsay, and reports provided by questionable sources," defense lawyers wrote.
They argued during the trial that Seda supported only humanitarian aid to refugees in Chechnya, and that there was no direct evidence he knew the money would go to support Islamic fighters.
Prosecutors said in court papers they will call a Russian investigator to testify by video link about evidence suggesting other officials of Al-Haramain used the money from Oregon to send weapons to Islamic fighters in Chechnya.
Col. Sergey Ignatchenko of the Russian Federal Security Service will testify that the intelligence agency intercepted a phone call in 2000 between Aqil Aqil, head of Al-Haramain worldwide and a director of the U.S. branch based in Ashland, and an Islamic fighter in Chechnya called Commander Khattab, according to court papers.
The prosecution sentencing recommendation said Aqil Aqil told Khattab a cargo of machine guns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, ammunition, rocket propelled grenades and bulletproof vests was ready to be shipped, prosecutors wrote.
The filing said a declassified report based on statements from an Al-Haramain money runner indicates Seda's co-founder of the U.S. branch of the charity, Soliman Al-Buthe, gave $130,000 of the money he brought to Saudi Arabia from Oregon to a representative of a man running an Islamic fighter training camp to smuggle it into Chechnya.
"While Sanad (the money runner) said he thought the funds were for `needy Chechen families,' the facts and circumstances strongly suggest otherwise," prosecutors wrote.
Al-Buthe was indicted along with Seda, but could not be extradited from Saudi Arabia to face trial.