WASHINGTON – A Missouri-based Islamic charity accused of being part of an international terrorist organization tried to distance itself in federal court Monday from a Sudanese group suspected of financing Al Qaeda.
The Treasury Department considers the Islamic American Relief Agency, of Columbia, Mo., to be an arm of the Islamic African Relief Agency, a Sudanese group accused of providing financial support to Usama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and Hamas.
The FBI raided the charity's office in Missouri and the homes of people affiliated with the group nationwide. Since then, the 20-year-old charity has been unable to raise money.
Attorney Shereef Hadi Akeel told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the charity was not part of the Sudanese group. The organizations have independent leaders and separate bank accounts, he said.
If the two groups were the same, Akeel said, when the Missouri group wanted to move money into Sudan, it would have simply transferred it. Instead, he said the charity sought U.S. permission.
A federal judge rejected the group's lawsuit in 2005, finding enough evidence to support the Treasury Department's decision. The three-judge appeals panel seemed hesitant to reject that finding Monday, asking few questions and noting that it would need to see clear evidence to overturn the agency's decision.
The Justice Department pointed to the Missouri charity's own tax and corporate documents, which list the charity as a chapter or affiliate of the Sudanese group.
Akeel said that in the world of aid organizations, charities in the U. S. frequently partner with groups in impoverished areas.
The judges heard both public and classified testimony Monday and did not rule on the case.