The Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va. hosted a fundraiser Saturday to finance legal appeals of Sabri Benkahla, who is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for obstruction of justice, perjury before a grand jury, and making false official statements to the FBI in the course of an investigation into the Virginia Jihad terror cell.
Benkahla was granted statutory immunity for his testimony before a grand jury. Under the terms of his immunity agreement, he submitted to interviews with the FBI and testified in August and November 2004 in front of a federal grand jury in Alexandria. He was asked about his participation in jihadist training camps or combat in Afghanistan or Pakistan during the summer of 1999, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia said following his criminal conviction.
Benkahla "was convicted of making materially false statements both in his grand jury appearances in 2004, as well as to the FBI in 2004. These false statements included his denial of his involvement with an overseas jihad training camp in 1999, as well as his asserted lack of knowledge about individuals with whom he was in contact," the U.S. Attorney's Office added.
In 2004, the FBI tried "to question Benkahla about his contacts with Ibrahim Buisir of Ireland, and Manaf Kasmuri of Malaysia, both of whom are designated by the United States as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as well as those with Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, his friend and fellow student at the Islamic University of Medina, until both were arrested by Saudi authorities in June 2003. Further, the trial revealed that the grand jury and FBI to question Benkahla about his contacts with an individual suspected of being Malki al-Tunisi, a facilitator for the al-Zarqawi terrorist network in Iraq."
Benkahla appealed the verdict with the support of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS). But in June 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed his conviction. U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has vouched for Benkahla's character and the ACLU has protested his prison conditions.
Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy writes that Dar al-Hijrah has "impeccable credentials" as a site to hold a fundraiser for a jailed jihadist. Anwar al-Awlaki, who had links to Nidal Malik Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab, served as imam there from 2001-02. During his tenure, Awlaki defended the Taliban movement.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has reported that Johari Abdul Malik, who has taken the lead in defending Dar al-Hijrah and Awlaki, has called for attacks on Israeli infrastructure to show displeasure with Israeli treatment of Palestinians. In a November 2004 sermon, the head imam at Dar Al-Hijrah, Shaker Elsayed, declared support for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
In addition to Abu Ali, currently serving a life sentence for plotting to murder President George W. Bush, other terrorists who attended Dar al-Hijrah have included Abdurrahman Alamoudi, currently serving a 23-year federal prison sentence for crimes including participation in a plot by Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi to assassinate Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Another was senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk. Two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour were worshipping at Dar Al-Hijrah when they met Eyad al Rababah after services. According to the 9/11 Commission report, al Rababah helped them find an apartment. He was subsequently deported to Jordan after being convicted in a fraudulent driver's license scheme. Read more here.