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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
US Muslim charity head arrested
Arnaout appearing before magistrate
Arnaout (left) will appear at a hearing next week
The head of a Muslim charity in the United States has been charged with perjury after he denied his organisation supported groups engaged in terrorism.

The FBI filed an affidavit with the complaint, saying that Enaam M Arnaout, the executive director of the Benevolence International Foundation, had close connections with Osama Bin Laden "and many of his key associates dating back more than a decade."


I am confident that Mr Arnaout is not engaged in terrorist activities, nor has he supported such activities knowingly or directly

Stephen Levy
Lawyer for Enaam Arnaout
Mr Arnaout, a 39-year-old Syrian-born US citizen, was arrested on Tuesday morning on two counts of perjury and will be held until a hearing next week.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said: "The complaint alleges Benevolence International Foundation was supporting violence secretly."

Federal agents raided the charity, based in the Palos Hills suburb of Chicago, on 14 December.

Its assets were frozen following the 11 September attacks, but the organisation sued the federal government, saying it had nothing to do with terrorism.

"I am confident that Mr Arnaout is not engaged in terrorist activities, nor has he supported such activities knowingly or directly," his lawyer Stephen Levy told the Associated Press when he was charged.

He said his client would be "more than helpful" if granted immunity from prosecution.

Accusations

According to the FBI affidavit, the organisation was established by Adil Abdul Galil Betargy, a wealthy Saudi sheikh who is an associate of Bin Laden, according to documents seized in Bosnia.

It also alleges that the foundation sponsored Mamdouh Salim, an associate of Bin Laden, for a trip to Bosnia.

Mr Salim once attempted to get nuclear and chemical weapons for al-Qaeda, according to the affidavit.

The US Government says its informants have told it that Mr Arnaout also handled money for Bin Laden.

Mr Arnaout is also said to have allowed one of Bin Laden's wives stay at his apartment in Pakistan, which the government says proves that Bin Laden trusted him.

Benevolence International describes itself in its brochures as a humanitarian organisation dedicated to helping victims of wars and natural disasters in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Tax documents suggest it received $3.3m in contributions for the year ending April 2000.

It is one of two Islamic Chicago-based charities whose assets were frozen.

The chairman of the other charity, Global Relief Foundation, was detained for alleged immigration violations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"Lawyers for Arnaout deny he knowlingly supported militant activity"
See also:

20 Mar 02 | Europe
Police swoop on Bosnian charity
20 Apr 02 | Americas
FBI puts banks on terror alert
11 Mar 02 | Americas
War 'playing into al-Qaeda's hands'
23 Apr 02 | Americas
US terror suspect demands new lawyer
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