Ore. Islamic charity figure fights date at prison

AP News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2012 5:59 PM
Ore. Islamic charity figure fights date at prison

The central figure in the long-running legal battles over an Islamic charity that once operated in Southern Oregon is due to report to prison next week to begin serving nearly three years for money-laundering and tax-evasion convictions.

Lawyers for 54-year-old Pete Seda are asking a federal appeals court to allow him to remain free while he appeals the convictions _ a process that the Medford Mail Tribune reported Monday (http://bit.ly/xOhvIQ) is likely to last longer than the prison term.

His lawyers say he's not a risk to flee. The government disagrees.

Seda was convicted in 2010 of using the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland to help smuggle $150,000 to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and signing a fraudulent tax return to cover it up.

Prosecutors alleged that Seda's motive was to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya, but the federal trial judge, Michael Hogan, ruled they failed to show that connection.

It could have led to as much as eight years in prison under federal terrorism sentencing guidelines.

For much of the past three years, the former Ashland arborist also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty has been living in a Portland apartment with his wife and working. He has been allowed to travel freely between Portland and Ashland, according to a defense filing.

Motions filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals call him an excellent and reliable candidate to remain free on bail.

Hogan has rejected a similar request and told Seda to report to the federal correctional facility at Sheridan next Monday.

His lawyers say he's had a spotless record wearing an electronic GPS bracelet.

Prosecutors cite his two years as a fugitive in the Middle East and say his dual citizenship could allow him to get an Iranian passport and flee. He's a native of Iran who also holds U.S. citizenship.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/