Government Charges Former Seattle Man in Terror Probe
SEATTLE – A former Seattle man was charged Wednesday with conspiring to help Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network and set up a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon.
Muslim activist Earnest James Ujaama was named in a two-count indictment that accused him of conspiracy to provide material support and resources for Al Qaeda and with using, carrying, possessing, and discharging firearms during a crime.
"The material support for terrorism has to be regarded as serious as terrorism itself," said Charles Mandigo, special agent in charge of the FBI office here.
The indictment contends Ujaama, 36, a Muslim born James Earnest Thompson, led a conspiracy to set up a training camp in Bly, Ore.
Federal officials said Ujaama and three co-conspirators wanted to set up terrorist training facilities in the United States. Those facilities would have trained people in military and guerrilla tactics to "promote violent jihad activities around the world."
At meetings with co-conspirators, the indictment says, Ujaama led discussions that included "the building of underground bunkers to hide ammunition and weapons, the creation of poisonous materials for public consumption, and the firebombing of vehicles."
"In or about October 1999, after visiting the property in Bly, Ore., Ujaama proposed ... the establishment of a jihad training camp on the Bly property," it says.
Authorities plan to return Ujaama to Seattle, U.S. Attorney John McKay said at a news conference here.
McKay wouldn't identify the three co-conspirators, but said none were U.S. citizens. He also said Ujaama is not connected to the five men in Detroit indicted separately Wednesday on terrorism charges.
Ujaama was arrested July 22 at an aunt's home in Denver, Colo., as a material witness to terrorist activity. He was flown to Virginia, where he remains in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, the other carries a 10-year penalty.
"If there's anything positive to come out of this, it renders some certainty to his situation," said Denver attorney Daniel Sears, who has been representing Ujaama. "He can go about the business of defending himself against these allegations and hopefully justice will be served in this matter.
"One thing he has not had that he now will have is the whole panoply of rights assured him under the criminal justice system," Sears continued.
Sears complained that the indictment refers to three unnamed, unindicted co-conspirators. "One can only speculate as to whom they might be.
"We really need to know who he is alleged to have conspired with."
McKay, who did not identify the alleged co-conspirators, said none is a U.S. citizen. He also said the Ujaama indictments were unrelated to terrorism indictments Wednesday in Detroit of five men.
Ujaama has lived in London with his family for a couple of years now, Sears said.
"James was aware of this investigation prior to coming to Denver" to visit his brother, the attorney said. And he has long had an airplane ticket for a flight back to England.
"If he was a flight risk, he would have taken the earliest opportunity to flee the United States and he didn't do so," Sears said.
Ujaama has repeatedly maintained his innocence. In a written statement Tuesday, he accused the government of conducting a witchhunt.
"Should it be the policy of this government to convict innocent people before any hearing or before any trial? If so, then we are betraying the constitution that we claim to hold dear," Ujaama said.
"My constitutional rights, my civil liberties and my future have been grossly violated in a bid to seek political gain, not justice or truth," he said.
James Ujaama's brother, Mustafa -- born Jon Thompson and also a Muslim convert -- said Wednesday that his brother remains in good spirits, despite five weeks behind bars.
"He knows he didn't do anything," he said in Seattle.
The brothers were born in Denver and grew up in Seattle. James Ujaama is married, with two children.
Many community leaders in Seattle have praised the brothers' work to eradicate drugs and prostitution from their neighborhood. They also worked to recruit former gang members and others into the now-defunct Dar-us-Salaam mosque. Other members of the mosque have also been under scrutiny for possible ties to bin Laden.
Authorities have also looked at Ujaama's ties to Abu Hamza al-Masri, the leader of a London mosque known for extreme anti-American views. U.S. officials believe al-Masri heads the Islamic Army of Aden, a Yemeni group linked to Al Qaeda that claimed responsibility for bombing the USS Cole. Al-Masri is wanted in Yemen on terror charges, and the United States has frozen his assets. He has denied supporting terrorism.
In Washington state, lawmakers declared June 10, 1994, James Ujaama Day. That same day, he received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
Ujaama also has published several entrepreneur books, including Coming Up and Young People's Guide to Starting a Business.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.