Prosecutors try to tie Seda to terrorism

EUGENE — Pete Seda's support for radical Islamic views and his ties to extremists peddling violence around the world make him a flight risk and a potential danger to U.S. citizens should he be freed, prosecutors argued today.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani said this morning in U.S. District Court that Seda should not be released or granted bail while fighting a conspiracy and tax-fraud case involving his defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation chapter in Ashland.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin called a recess until later this afternoon.

Today's hearing came a week after Seda, who has been living in Iran and Syria during his 2Â1/2; years as an international fugitive, returned to fight charges that he helped smuggle $150,000 in charity donations from Ashland to Saudi Arabia to fund Muslim terrorists in Chechnya.

Citing "oddities" in Seda's multiple passports and poor cooperation with federal investigators, Cardani sought to keep Seda in the Lane County Jail, which has been his home since his return.

"He has connections with very dangerous individuals throughout the world," Cardani said in court.

"We don't know what he's been doing or what he might want to do if he is released," he said.

Defense attorney Larry Matasar was scheduled to make his case for release this afternoon.

While the Al-Haramain chapter, and Seda's Saudi Arabian partner in it, have been designated as supporters of terrorism, Seda so far has sidestepped that designation.

The case against him to date has largely been about alleged tax fraud and money laundering investigated by the Internal Revenue Service.

In today's hearing, the government for the first time offered testimony that attempted to link Seda to the promotion of terrorism, radical Islamic views and even Osama bin Laden.

IRS agent Colleen Anderson testified that Seda arranged for an Internet service provider to carry a Web site that at times included messages from what was purported to be Osama bin Laden prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Wearing green Lane County Jail clothing and smiling to a small group of supporters and family, Seda said nothing during this morning's hearing. When leaving during one recess, a court bailiff stopped Seda from reaching out to his son, Jonah, who was sitting in the front row.

"I guess I'm not supposed to touch you," Seda said. "I'm dangerous."

— Mark Freeman

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