Prosecutors decry Seda case 'fishing expedition'

Federal prosecutors don't want to turn over new evidence sought by lawyers demanding a new trial for an Ashland man convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy to help smuggle money to Muslim fighters in Chechnya.

The U.S. Attorney's Office argued in papers filed Thursday that the request for internal documents and investigation guidelines by lawyers for Pete Seda amounts to a "fishing expedition," and that prosecutors have already turned over all relevant information.

Prosecutors added that they will explain in future filings why they failed to disclose to defense attorneys until after the trial that $14,500 was paid to an informant in the case. They denied defense arguments that the failure denied Seda a fair trial by making it impossible to question the credibility of a key witness.

Seda is the co-founder of the Oregon chapter of an Islamic charity declared a terrorist organization. He was convicted last September for helping smuggle $150,000 to Saudi Arabia through the Ashland office of Al Haramain Islamic Foundation.

Seda was released last week by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan pending a ruling on the defense motion for a new trial. That motion was based on the admission by prosecutors three months after the trial that that they failed to disclose the FBI paid $14,500 to an informant in the case.

Seda was never charged with terrorism, but the U.S. government has declared the U.S. chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation a terrorist organization and seized its assets.

Prosecutors are also trying to get Seda sentenced to the maximum eight years in prison on the tax and conspiracy convictions based on evidence he intended the money to go to Islamic terrorists fighting the Russian army in Chechnya.

Richard Cabral, who worshipped at the Al-Haramain prayer house in Ashland and went with Seda on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1999, died before trial. But his wife, Barbara Cabral, testified that during the pilgrimage, Seda asked them for contributions to mujahedin in Chechnya.

Among the records sought by defense lawyers are bank records and tax returns of the Cabrals, which prosecutors said they did not possess.

They also sought Department of Justice guidelines for paying informants, all documents relating to the Cabrals as informants, and all communications between prosecutors and FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigators about their use of the Cabrals as informants.

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