Part 3: Some CAIR Officials Convicted of Crimes, More Tied to Extremist Groups
by Steven Emerson
March 26, 2008
(note: The third installment of our CAIR dossier can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/111.pdf)
The questionable associations and actions by many of its leaders cast serious doubt on CAIR's claims of moderation and restraint. Some have committed criminal acts themselves; others have ties to organizations with connections to Islamic extremism.
Those convicted of direct criminal activity include Ghassan Elashi, a founding board member of CAIR-Texas; Randall (Ismail) Royer, once a communications specialist for the national group, and Bassam Khafagi, the organization's one-time director of community relations.
In the more egregious cases, the organization has tried to distance itself from the individuals, contorting both logic and the English language. As the IPT's series on CAIR's history and activities continues, we look at the suspect nature of these examples and others close to the organization.
• Ghassan Elashi, who attended a 1993 Philadelphia meeting called by Hamas to discuss derailing U.S. peace initiatives, was convicted in 2004 on six criminal counts, including making false statements, conspiracy to violate the Export Administration Regulations and the Libyan Sanctions Regulations, and conspiracy to file false shipper's export declaration forms. He was a defendant again in the 2007 Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), where jurors were unable to reach unanimous verdicts on the charges against him.
Elashi served as HLF chairman and treasurer and vice president of Infocom, a computer export company. He was sentenced to 80 months in prison for making illegal computer shipments to Libya and Syria and conspiring to send money to Mousa Abu Marzook, an admitted Hamas leader.
Seeking to minimize Elashi's ties to CAIR, Executive Director Nihad Awad assured U.S. senators in 2003 testimony, "Mr. Elashi was never an employee or officer of our corporation. The fact that he was once associated with one of our almost twenty regional chapters has no legal significance…"
• Randall Royer, the former CAIR communications specialist, has a more colorful criminal history. Police who stopped his car for a traffic violation in 2001 found an AK-47-style rifle and 219 rounds of ammunition inside. Then, in 2003, he was indicted on charges stemming from participation in the ongoing jihad in Kashmir -- specifically, doing propaganda work for Lashkar-e Taiba, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, and personally firing at Indian positions in Kashmir.
Pleading guilty to weapons and explosives charges in 2004, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In later grand jury testimony, Royer admitted that the cell's primary goal was to fight with the Taliban against United States forces in Afghanistan
Again, CAIR reacted defensively, seeking to downplay both his ties to the organization and, indeed, the nature of his crimes. "Notwithstanding the fact that any criminal action to which he pleaded guilty was done when Royer was no longer employed with CAIR and not at CAIR's direction," the group said, "it is important to note that the only crimes that he pleaded guilty to were weapons charges, not charges of terrorism."
CAIR's timing point contradicts media reports indicating that Royer still worked for the group in October 2001; while the charges to which Royer pleaded guilty do not directly contain the word "terrorism," they involved his activities in support of a conspiracy against the United States.
Bassam Khafagi pleaded guilty to bank and visa fraud charges in September 2003, after his arrest and indictment earlier that year. "At the time of his arrest," the Associated Press reported, "he was community affairs director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations."
Khafagi also served as a founding member and president of the Islamic Assembly of North America. That group was investigated on charges of money laundering and recruiting terrorists over the Internet and the FBI raided its offices in February 2003.
Trying to put the best face on the situation once again, Awad claimed in Senate testimony, "Khafagi was never an ‘employee' of CAIR," but rather an "independent contractor for CAIR."
Among other CAIR officials:
• Nabil Sadoun, currently on CAIR's board and chair of CAIR-Texas, helped found the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR). While there has been no criminal prosecution of the UASR, Sadoun founded it along with Hamas leader Marzook. Internal records show the UASR was a founding member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee in America. Federal prosecutors say that committee's "designed purpose was to support Hamas."
Sadoun also co-founded the Muslim American Youth Association. MAYA's conferences, many of which it co-sponsored with IAP, have long supported Hamas.
• Mohammad El-Mezain, the former chairman and director of endowments for HLF, conducted fundraising at a 2004 CAIR-New York event, soliciting over $100,000 for CAIR. He was indicted soon afterward for providing material support to Hamas. Acquitted of most counts against him in the HLF trial, he faces retrial on a charge of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group.
• Rabih Haddad served as a fundraiser for CAIR's Ann Arbor chapter. He co-founded the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), one of the largest Islamic charities in the United States -- but one that the U.S. government has investigated of funding violent jihadism.
In December 2001 the FBI raided GRF's headquarters and arrested Haddad, then its chairman, on a visa violation. He was deported to Lebanon after an immigration judge found that he presented "a substantial risk to the national security of the United States." The Treasury Department said Haddad had been a member of Makhtab Al-Khidamat, the precursor organization to Al Qaeda.Again, to view the full installment, click here: http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/111.pdf