- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) A federal judge yesterday dismissed a perjury indictment against an Islamic charity accused of lying about its ties to Osama bin Laden, saying the purported conduct didn't violate the law.
U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall's 22-page decision left no charges pending against Benevolence International Foundation or its executive director, Enaam Arnaout.
The 39-year-old, Syrian-born Mr. Arnaout, who has been jailed since April, was charged based on an affidavit in a civil lawsuit, in which he denied his group had anything to do with funding terrorism. Benevolence was also charged with perjury.
The judge did not base her opinion on whether Mr. Arnaout might have been telling the truth. Instead, she cited previous decisions holding that an affidavit signed by a witness in a lawsuit similar to the one brought against the government by Benevolence was not signed under penalty of perjury.
She said perjury charges might have been appropriate had Mr. Arnaout made false statements in a deposition.
Federal agents raided the group's suburban Chicago headquarters on Dec. 14 and froze the charity's assets.
Mr. Arnaout acknowledges that he has met bin Laden but has denied having anything to do with terrorism. Benevolence attorney Matthew Piers said it was not clear when Mr. Arnaout would be released from the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, had no immediate comment.
Freezing the assets of Benevolence and another Islamic charity based in the Chicago area, Global Relief Foundation, were among the most visible actions of the federal government's drive to shut off the flow of U.S. dollars to terrorists overseas.
The government has never charged that either group financed terrorism but has said they are suspected of financing terrorism.


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