Add the former head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan office to our report on CAIR officials in trouble with the law. In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, Muthanna Al-Hanooti is accused of spying for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government. The Detroit Free Press reports that Al-Hanooti is charged with conspiring to work for a foreign government and with making false statements to the FBI.
The indictment involves Al-Hanooti's work with Life for Relief and Development (LIFE), a Muslim charity that operates in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and the Palestinian territories. According to the Free Press, the indictment alleges "Al-Hanooti would travel to Iraq and meet with conspirators of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The indictment says that Al-Hanooti was rewarded with 2 million barrels of oil for his work."
According to a Dec. 3, 1999 story in the Arab American News, Al-Hanooti was moving to Washington to work for CAIR. Then, a CAIR press release in June 2000 identified Al-Hanooti as executive director of its new regional office in Michigan. It isn't clear when he left the organization.
The Detroit News reports Al-Hanooti was arrested at the airport Tuesday night as he returned from a Middle East. A federal judge ordered him to post a $100,000 bond and wear an electronic monitor.
LIFE was founded in 1992 as the International Relief Association (IRA) by Iraqi-Americans "in response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Iraq as a result of the 1991 Gulf War." In 1998, IRA changed its name to Life for Relief and Development (LIFE).
Troops of the U.S.-led coalition raided LIFE's office in Baghdad in June 2004. A coalition spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle that a "cordon and search operation" had been carried out and that "12 computers and 20 boxes of files were confiscated."
Federal agents raided the LIFE office in Southfield, Mich. two years later.
The indictment also alleges that Al-Hanooti gave Iraqi intelligence officials a plan of how to end U.S. economic sanctions against Hussein's regime. That included names of congressmen who would favor removing the sanctions. In 2002, LIFE provided full financial sponsorship of a congressional delegation, joined by Michigan Democrat David Bonior, which traveled to Iraq to examine the impact of U.S. economic sanctions. Others on the trip included Representatives Jim McDermott of Washington and Mike Thompson of California.
LIFE had generated suspicion among Iraqi expatriates. They have protested outside LIFE's Michigan office, contending that its leaders were too close to Saddam's regime. In September 2004, Haider al-Jabori, a Dearborn resident, told The Detroit News, "This organization is well-known as a Saddam supporter."
For more on CAIR officials and brushes with the law, see the third installment of the IPT's series on CAIR here.