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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
US Muslim charity chief jailed
Arnaout was investigated in the war on terror
The leader of a Muslim charity in the United States has been sentenced to 11 years in jail after being convicted of fraud.

Syrian-born Enaam Arnaout, 46, admitted diverting thousands of dollars from his Benevolence International Foundation to Islamic militants in Bosnia and Chechnya.

Prosecutors said Arnaout also had links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, a charge which Arnaout denied.

The investigation into Arnaout was viewed by the Bush administration as an important part of the United States' war against international terrorism.

Met Bin Laden

Arnaout is believed to have channelled up to $400,000 meant for refugees to military groups.

I came to this country to enjoy freedom and justice
Enaam Arnaout
US District Judge Suzanne B Conlon said there was no evidence Arnaout supported terrorism, although she said his alleged links to Bin Laden raised suspicions.

During the investigation, US Attorney General John Ashcroft said documents found in Arnaout's charity's Bosnia office tied him directly to Bin Laden, and Arnaout admitted having met the al-Qaeda leader.

The Chicago-based charity was shut down in 2001.

Arnaout said he opposed terrorism and claimed he had been "kidnapped" by the US Government.

"I came to this country to enjoy freedom and justice," he told the court.

"I came to have a peaceful life."

The judge ordered Arnaout to serve at least 85% of his sentence and to pay more than $300,000 to refugees.

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