- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Attorneys for a former top official charged with embezzling money from the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., claimed in a court filing Monday that the prosecution’s star witness committed perjury.

Farzad Darui is charged with stealing more than $435,000 from the Saudi-financed mosque during his time as business manager there. His first trial ended in a mistrial earlier this year when a jury could not reach a verdict. A date has not been set for a retrial.

The key witness against Mr. Darui is the center’s director, Abdullah M. Khouj.

Defense attorney Victoria Toensing argued in her filing that Mr. Khouj is so unreliable that the charges against Mr. Darui should be dropped. In one case, she wrote in the motion, Mr. Khouj accused Mr. Darui of stealing specific checks from the Saudi Embassy, only to have those checks end up in Mr. Khouj’s account.

Miss Toensing argued that Mr. Khouj authorized Mr. Darui to take the money. She said the money was used to pay for sensitive security measures at the center and for the living expenses of at least two mistresses of Mr. Khouj, who was married.

She said most of the money went to one of the mistresses, Debbi Estrada.

“When that relationship deteriorated, Khouj requested Darui to house her in Darui’s apartment buildings and pay other expenses for her, including repairing damage and leaving her money at regular intervals,” Miss Toensing wrote.

Her motion said Mr. Khouj continues to pay for Miss Estrada’s accommodations. But before trial, according to the motion, he said he did not know where Miss Estrada was.

According to Miss Toensing’s motion, an investigator for the defense found Miss Estrada at an apartment in Arlington earlier this month and a woman there received $500 a month since May from the Islamic center to provide accommodations for Miss Estrada.

“By Khouj’s providing Estrada’s upkeep, he was also corruptly influencing the testimony of a witness,” the motion said. “In short, Khouj obstructed justice.”

Mr. Khouj has denied any personal relationship with Miss Estrada.

A woman who answered the phone at the Islamic center Monday night said Mr. Khouj was too busy to speak with a reporter for The Washington Times and referred further questions to Mr. Khouj’s attorney. The attorney could not be reached for comment.

Despite Mr. Khouj’s denials, defense attorneys say they have evidence showing that he married Miss Estrada in 1987 or 1988.

Miss Toensing’s motion says an affidavit from an imam, Sheik Elsayed, stated that he performed a marriage ceremony between Mr. Khouj and a young American woman who had converted to Islam, adding that he thought the woman had a young daughter at the time.

In 1992, according to the motion, Miss Estrada was admitted to George Washington Hospital under the name Debbi Khouj.

During the first trial, a judge denied requests by Mr. Darui’s attorneys to introduce evidence about Mr. Khouj’s mistresses. A judge ruled that such evidence would be prejudicial.

Miss Toensing’s motion says prosecutors dismissed concerns raised by the defense before the trial about Mr. Khouj’s credibility, as well as inconsistencies in his statements to prosecutors.

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, said the office won’t have any comment until it has a chance to review the motion and file a response in court.

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