- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Congressional Republicans have pledged to give to charity $15,000 donated by a New York businessman if he is convicted on charges of financing terrorism, money laundering and fraud.

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari was arrested Thursday and charged with accepting payment to secretly transfer $152,000 “that he believed (was) being sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan to be used to support a terrorist training camp … by, among other things, funding the purchase of equipment such as night-vision goggles.”

He also faces fraud and wiretap charges that accuse him of running a six-year scheme in which he and his associates stole millions of dollars from investors through a fake loan-investment program called the “Flat Electronic Data Interchange.” He pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Friday and was ordered detained. Attempts this week to reach his attorney were unsuccessful.

On Monday, ABC News revealed that Mr. Alishtari gave more than $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from April 2002 to August 2004, citing Federal Elections Commission figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Democrats were quick to seize on the issue. Jennifer Crider, communications director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called on the Republican Party to “immediately come clean.”

“Did Alishtari receive special access to Republican leaders and members” of Congress in return for his donations, Miss Crider asked yesterday. “Which Republican candidates has the NRCC supported with Alishtari’s money? Has the NRCC returned Alishtari’s contributions?”

In a response e-mailed to reporters, Jessica Boulanger, NRCC communications director, said the Republican Party was “extremely concerned and disturbed by these charges, but we need to be careful not to rush to judgment as the judicial process moves forward.”

If Mr. Alishtari were found guilty of a crime, she concluded, “it is our intent to donate the money to charity.”

One analyst said Mr. Alishtari did not fit the classic profile of an Islamic extremist.

“He has had a public persona which belies any long-standing commitment to jihad,” wrote Andrew Cochran on counterterrorismblog.org, noting that he had “distributed poetry on Web sites … on subjects as varied as the dreams and desires of wives and the differences between strains of Islam,” and had created a “Global Peace Film Festival.”

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