Pete Seda was considered a pillar of the community in Ashland, Oregon, until he fled
to Dubai after being indicted for laundering money for a terrorist group. Seda then
hired a lawyer who was in the good graces of both Republican über-insider Grover Norquist and a convicted and imprisoned
terror funder. Born Pirouz Sedaghaty, Seda fled Iran in the 1970s and took refuge in
the United States. His neighbors in the small city of Ashland remember him as the
friendly guy who showed off his pet camel in the Fourth of July parade and relocated
trees from the paths of developers. Seda eventually became secretary of the Ashland
branch of al Haramain, a Saudi Arabia-based Muslim relief charity with branches all
over the world. The Saudi government funds al Haramain and exercises some control
After the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, Kenya banned al Haramain, saying the charity had been involved. In 1999, Russia’s Federal Security Service accused al Haramain of wiring $1 million to Chechen rebels, citing memos between rebel commanders in Chechnya and al Haramain’s director in Saudi Arabia that said, “Today, al Haramain has $50 million for the needs of the mujaheddin. The reason al Haramain provides assistance a little bit at a time is because it is afraid of the accusations it is assisting the jihad.” In 2002, the U.S. Treasury froze the assets of al Haramain branches in Somalia and Bosnia, accusing them of financing terror.
Al Haramain has long been tied to notorious terror supporters. In 1999, Abdul-Lateef Saleh used Saudi government letterhead to write a thank you note to al Haramain for their work in Albania. The U.S. eventually designated Saleh as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) for directly supporting Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. In 2002, Al Haramain money helped finance the bombing of a hotel in Kenya. CBS news reported in 2004 that Al Haramain raised $40 to $50 million a year at its peak, most of which went to Al Qaeda.
Seda’s trouble with al Haramain began in 2000, when an Egyptian businessman donated $150,000 to the Oregon branch. In February 2004, IRS and FBI agents searched al Haramain’s Ashland offices on a warrant alleging that the Egyptian expected that the money would find its way to Muslim fighters in Chechnya. The warrant also said that Seda and Soliman al-Buthe, the chapter’s treasurer, exchanged the donation for travelers’ checks, which al-Buthe carried personally to Saudi Arabia for distribution to the Chechnyan rebels. The IRS claimed Seda misled them about where the donation ended up. Four months later, Saudi Arabia dissolved al Haramain after the U.S. alleged that it suspected the charity of funding al-Qaeda.
In 2005, the U.S. Treasury assigned SDGT status to al Haramain and Soliman al-Buthe, and a federal grand jury indicted al-Buthe and Seda on tax charges. Seda and al-Buthe fled the country. Both denied any wrongdoing or connection to terrorism. Charges were dropped in September 2005, with the U.S. saying the charity had become a “functionless shell.” Seda and al-Buthe, however, are still considered international fugitives as of 2007.
One of the attorneys for the two men, Thomas Nelson, sued the National Security Agency, alleging that the NSA secretly wiretapped conversations between him and his clients. Another of Seda’s and al-Buthe’s attorneys, Asim Ghafoor, has ties to both powerful Republicans and terror financiers. Ghafoor was the political director of the Islamic Institute, the think-tank founded by Republican power broker Grover Norquist. Ghafoor also once worked as the spokesman for the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Global Relief Foundation, nonprofits that the federal government raided and shuttered because of their ties to Islamic terrorism. (These groups shared offices with Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.) Ghafoor’s former boss at AMC, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, is now serving 23 years for illegal finance activities with Libya related to a plot to assassinate the leader of Saudi Arabia.
Seda’s last known residence is Dubai, where he is said to be studying Islam. Al-Buthe is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he was among those vehemently speaking out against cartoons depicting Mohammed as a spokesman for the nonviolent International Committee for the Defense of the Final Prophet. He is also the assistant director of beautification for Riyadh. “Basically, he's the flower guy,” Nelson said in an interview. “He is responsible for the second annual Riyadh Flower Festival.”
- "Lawsuit claims NSA illegally wiretapped attorneys," AP, March 1, 2006, WILLIAM McCALL
- “Islamic Charity is Under Investigation,” AP, February 20, 2004
- “Defunct Islamic charity's house sold,” AP, May 5, 2006
- “Islamic charity sues feds over seized pamphlets,” The Oregonian, April 28, 2006, ASHBEL S. GREEN
- “Saudi charity suspected of supporting terrorism, officers indicted in Oregon on fraud, tax charges,” AP, February 18, 2005, WILLIAM McCALL
- “Potential Evidence Surfaces of Bush's Illegal Spying,” AlterNet, May 8, 2006, Onnesha Roychoudhuri, http://www.alternet.org/rights/35807/
- Testimony of Steven Emerson with Jonathan Levin Before the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs: “Terrorism Financing: Origination, Organization, and Prevention: Saudi Arabia, Terrorist Financing and the War on Terror,”July 31, 2003, www.senate.gov/~govt-aff/073103emerson.pdf