Federal Trial to Begin for Former Southwest Michigan Congressman Mark Siljander
By Chris Killian
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Southwest Michigan Congressman Mark Siljander will be in court this week to face a host of charges relating to an alleged international terrorism ring.
In what is expected to be a lengthy proceeding, Siljander will be in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on Tuesday. He was indicted in January 2008 on charges of money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The government alleges the now-defunct Islamic American Relief Agency used stolen money to pay Siljander $75,000 for lobbying efforts to have its name removed from a U.S. Senate Finances Committee list of organizations that allegedly support terrorism. He is also accused of lying to federal investigators.
Siljander has contended the money was to have helped support his work on his book,
Mubarek Hamed, the former executive director of the relief agency from 1991 to 2004, pleaded guilty on June 25 to conspiracy and a tax violation for misusing the charity’s tax- exempt status and lying to the Internal Revenue Service. He also admitted to funneling more than $1 million to Iraq in violation of U.S. sanctions, which began in 1990 and ended in 2003.
Hamed, who had contended for years that the relief agency was an independent charity, admitted at his hearing that the charity was part of an international organization headquartered in Sudan that had the same initials as the charity.
The government has said that the African charity supported terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, the Taliban and Hamas.
Known as a conservative Republican, Siljander, formerly of St. Joseph County, represented the old 4th Congressional District from 1981-87. He now resides in Great Falls, Va.
McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.