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Probable cause found in charity case

By MARCELLA S. KREITER

CHICAGO, May 13 (UPI) -- A federal magistrate Monday found probable cause in the perjury case brought against a southwest suburban Muslim charity and its director.

U.S. Magistrate Ian Levin scheduled a detention hearing for Thursday for Enaam Arnaout, executive director of the Benevolence International Foundation of Palos Hills.

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Arnaout, 39, a Syrian-born resident of Justice, Ill., was charged with perjury for allegedly lying in federal court documents about links to international terrorism in a bid to unfreeze the foundation's assets. The charges accuse Arnaout and the foundation of lying under oath in a federal civil lawsuit currently pending against U.S. government officials. Specifically at issue are the charity's denials of providing "aid and support to people or organizations known to be engaged in violence, terrorist activities or military operations."

The government froze the foundation's assets in December because of alleged terrorist ties.

In arguments Friday, attorneys for the foundation accused the government of basing its case on outdated information alleging the group was tied to reputed Saudi-born terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

The government said it has pictures seized from group's Bosnian offices of Arnaout posing with weapons, along with undated, coded notes dealing with placement of al Qaida fighters.

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"They keep an archive of old bin Laden photographs in their offices. It tells you something," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said. "This is all part of a mosaic."

"There's nothing in these photos that depicts anything inappropriate," countered foundation attorney Matthew Piers.

Prosecutors said they would oppose bail for Arnaout at Thursday's detention hearing, saying they regard him as a flight risk.

Arnaout has said he does not know bin Laden personally but that the two were both in Peshawar, Pakistan, in the late 1980s.

The Chicago Tribune reported last week Arnaout is identified under a code name as having helped set up bin Laden's first military training camp in Afghanistan. His attorneys, however, suggested he might have been at a construction site in Pakistan, rather than at the training camp, and that the pictures submitted by the government are too fuzzy to identify Arnaout.

FBI Special Agent Robert Walker testified, however, "It's clear enough for me to say it's Mr. Arnaout."

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