EUGENE, Oregon— An expert witness for the prosecution testified Tuesday that Islamic charities based in Saudi Arabia, including the one an Iranian-born tree surgeon is accused of smuggling money for, were regular conduits of funding to Muslim fighters in the volatile Caucasus region.
But under cross examination, international terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann conceded he had never interviewed anyone directly involved with the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation about providing aid to Chechnya, and never included Al-Haramain in the chapter on Islamic charities in his book on terrorism, "Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe."
Kohlmann's testimony came in the US District Court trial of Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty. The Iranian-born tree surgeon and naturalized US citizen is accused of smuggling $150,000 to Saudi Arabia so it could go to fighters in Chechnya, and filing a false tax return to cover his tracks. The defense counters the money was meant for refugees and the mistakes in the tax return were made by an accountant, not Seda.
"A significant portion of the aid from these charities almost certainly does go to good causes — widows, orphans and refugee camps," Kohlmann said under cross examination by defense attorney Bernie Casey. "Up to a third of the money is skimmed off and diverted to other causes, including paying the salaries of foreign fighters."