A founding member of a U.S. Muslim group that endorsed an Army chaplain now accused of espionage has himself been arrested on criminal charges.
Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, 51, who helped organize the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veteran Affairs Council and is a board member of the Washington, D.C.-based American Muslim Council, was taken into custody Sunday by agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI.
Mr. al-Amoudi, an American citizen of Ethiopian descent, was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport shortly after arriving in the United States on a flight from London.
His home was among those searched in March 2002 by federal agents as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the financing of terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Muslim activist, who lives in Falls Church, is accused in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday of failing to notify U.S. officials of numerous trips to Libya. Notification is required under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act since the United States considers Libya an international sponsor of terrorism.
An ICE affidavit filed in the case said authorities had established numerous ties between Mr. al-Amoudi and Libyan entities. The affidavit said Mr. al-Amoudi made at least 10 trips to Libya using one Yemeni and two U.S. passports.
Mr. al-Amoudi also was charged with illegally accepting $10,700 from the Libyan mission to the United Nations.
The affidavit also noted that British customs officials found $340,000 in sequentially numbered $100 bills last month in Mr. al-Amoudi’s luggage. Although not charged at the time with a crime, he told officials he received the cash from an unknown person at a London hotel after a visit to Libya’s Islamic Call Society in Tripoli.
A federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Alexandria ordered Mr. al-Amoudi held without bail pending a detention hearing today.
The charges against Mr. al-Amoudi are expected to be expanded, although authorities yesterday declined to elaborate.
FBI Assistant Director Michael A. Mason, who heads the bureau’s Washington field office, acknowledged yesterday that federal law-enforcement authorities have focused for some time on Mr. al-Amoudi’s activities. He described his detention as “an important arrest.”
The American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council is one of two Pentagon-approved groups that endorses Muslim military chaplains. The other, the Islamic Society of North America, also provides religious training for the chaplains at the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Studies in Leesburg, Va.
Last week, the Pentagon ordered a review of how it recruits military chaplains, particularly Muslim clerics endorsed by U.S. Muslim groups with ties to radical Islam. The probe was begun after the arrest of Army Capt. James Yee, a chaplain now being held on espionage charges concerning his work with al Qaeda and Taliban detainees being held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council endorsed Capt. Yee.
The Air Force also has arrested a second Guantanamo staffer, Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, and charged him with 32 criminal offenses centering on espionage. At least one and perhaps two other persons who worked at Guantanamo are also under investigation.
The Muslim groups also are the focus of a pending inquiry by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security. Chairman Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, has focused on the effort by Islamist radicals to infiltrate and recruit terrorists within the United States, primarily on chaplains in the prison systems and in the U.S. military.
Mr. Kyl said an Oct. 14 hearing will focus on exactly who allowed the two groups, along with the Islamic Foundation of North America, to become the determining bodies for chaplains.
“It is remarkable that people who have known connections to terrorism are the only people to approve these chaplains,” he said.
Mr. al-Amoudi, who defended Hamas during a visit to the Clinton White House, donated $50,000 to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate campaign during a June 2000 fund-raiser in Boston. The donation, which later was returned, initially was listed by the Clinton campaign as having come from the American Muslim Council, although that later was described as a typographical error.
Capt. Yee, a 35-year-old West Point graduate, is confined to the Naval Consolidated Brig at Charleston, S.C., while the Army and FBI investigate accusations of espionage. He received his religious training in Damascus, Syria, before returning to the United States and rejoining the Army.
There are currently 12 Muslim chaplains on active duty, ministering to some 4,200 Muslim military personnel.
Last year, U.S. agents raided the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, accusing it of ties to al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s terror group.
The American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council is designated by the American Muslim Foundation (AMF). The government raided the foundation as well as the graduate school. Neither the AMF nor the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences has been charged since the raid.
Guy Taylor contributed to this report.