CHICAGO – Letters found in a raid of an Islamic charity's Bosnia office link the head of the group to Usama bin Laden, an FBI agent testified.
The agent said Friday that a photo of bin Laden and a letter signed by him were seized in the March 19 raid on an office of the Benevolence International Foundation, which is suspected of funneling aid to terrorists.
The testimony came in a hearing to determine whether perjury charges should be dismissed against the foundation and its chief executive, Enaam Arnaout.
After an earlier raid on the charity's Chicago headquarters, the government froze the group's assets. The charity sued to release its assets, and submitted sworn statements that it did not support terrorism.
Those statements led to the perjury charges. No terror-related charges have been filed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ian H. Levin was expected to decide Monday whether to dismiss the perjury counts.
On Friday, FBI agent Robert Walker testified that during the Bosnia raid a computer disc was seized containing a two-paragraph letter from bin Laden to Arnaout. The letter concerned the selection of a leader for guards at an unspecified camp.
It was addressed to Abu Mahmood and signed Abu Al-Qaaqaa, which the agent testified were aliases used by Arnaout and bin Laden. Defense attorneys said, however, that who signed the letters was in doubt.
Another letter, addressed to an Abu Alreza, asked for money for a trip for an associate to Saudi Arabia. Another signed by Abu Mahmood was addressed to "his excellency, the exalted Sheik Usama bin Laden."
Walker said a second computer disc was seized on which all the files had been erased, but FBI experts restored them. One, he said, contained a photo of bin Laden. Another photo, apparently taken at the same time in the same place, was of Arnaout, the agent said.
Also seized was a photo showing Arnaout sitting with an Afghan warlord linked to terrorists, Walker said. Other photos showed Arnaout sitting near an anti-aircraft gun and holding a variety of weapons.
Under questioning by the charity's attorneys, Walker acknowledged that the letters were undated and that the photos appeared to have been taken as long ago as the 1980s.
At the time, bin Laden and the United States were on the same side, backing Afghan freedom fighters warring with the Soviet Union, the lawyers noted.
"This evidence doesn't hold a thimble full of water," said Benevolence attorney Matthew Piers.
But U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald urged the judge to consider the photos "all part of the mosaic" of evidence showing Abu Mahmood is Arnaout.