Seda detention hearing is today

Pete Seda begins the fight for his freedom today when attorneys slug it out over whether the jailed former Ashland activist and 21/2-year international fugitive should be free during his pending federal criminal case.

Seda will be in U.S. District Court in Eugene, a week after surrendering to face conspiracy and tax-evasion charges stemming from activities involving his now-defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation chapter that the government has linked to al-Qaida.

Seda, who steadfastly has denied any link to terrorism, has remained jailed without bail on a 2005 federal warrant over the alleged smuggling of $150,000 from Ashland to Saudi Arabia to help Chechen Muslims, who the government has tied to international terrorism.

During today's so-called "detention hearing," U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin could decide whether Seda, 49, should be held without bail, released outright or set a bail amount meant to ensure he appears in court when ordered.

Seda also has filed a sealed financial affidavit that will be considered as part of today's hearing, court records show.

Prosecution and defense attorneys were mum Tuesday about what they expect to occur in court Wednesday.

Portland defense attorney Larry Matasar, however, won a motion Monday allowing Seda to hire an expert witness to aid in today's hearing.

Detention hearings typically delve into two issues — whether the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Portland attorney Tom Nelson, who helped broker Seda's surrender, said Seda's voluntary return and community standing could help lead to his eventual release while his criminal case plays out.

"He has an absolutely spotless record and people down in Ashland still like him," Nelson said.

"Pete's trying to re-establish himself as a productive member of society," Nelson said. "He's no wild and crazy man. He's a 50-year-old guy who wants to get his life straightened out."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani declined to comment on the hearing. Matasar did not return telephone calls Tuesday seeking comment.

The indictment charges Seda with helping his former chapter partner, a Saudi Arabian national named Soliman Al-Buthi, convert a $150,000 donation into traveler's checks and a cashier's check at an Ashland bank in 2000.

Al-Buthi then carried the checks — purportedly to help Muslim refugees in Chechnya — to Saudi Arabia without filing a report on the money as required by U.S. law.

The U.S. Treasury Department has claimed prosecutors have evidence that the money was diverted to Chechen leaders with ties to al-Qaida.

The tax-evasion charge accuses the men of lying on the chapter's tax return to account for the smuggled money.

Seda, a naturalized U.S. citizen, left the United States in 2003 for the United Arab Emirates before federal agents raided his Ashland house that also served as Al-Haramain's sole chapter in this country.

The federal government in 2004 designated Al-Buthi and the Al-Haramain chapter as agents of global terror, and both Al-Buthi and chapter attorneys are fighting those designations.

Seda, who is also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, has so far sidestepped any terrorism designation.

After his indictment and the issuing of his international arrest warrant, Seda was believed to be living in his native Iran, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.

Nelson has declined to reveal where Seda lived the past 21/2 years. Nelson, however, said Seda flew from Syria to Frankfurt, Germany, last week before flying from Frankfurt to Portland for his surrender and arrest there.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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