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Newsdesk October 3, 2003

Arab Leader Praised Bombing

A top American Muslim leader who was charged this week for illegally obtaining money from Libya and financing terrorism in the United States and abroad once hailed the 1994 bombing of the Jewish communal center in Argentina, according to the court testimony of a federal agent.

“The Jewish community center, it is a worthy operation,” Abdurahman Alamoudi, the founder of the American Muslim Council and the American Muslim Foundation, told an unidentified man in a wiretapped conversation, according to a transcript read in court by an agent of the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Alamoudi was referring to the AMIA bombing that killed 85 people and injured over 300, according to the transcript.

He said he preferred the operation to the terrorist attacks conducted by Al Qaeda because the latter ones were killing Muslims, according to the transcript, which was reported Tuesday by The New York Sun.

The comments were produced in support of a wider set of accusations against Alamoudi, who has extensive political ties to both Democrats and Republicans. He is accused of illegally accepting money from Libya — thus violating American sanctions — and planning to give money to terrorist groups and cells in Syria and the United States.

Alamoudi has also been linked to the developing investigation of spying in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp because of his prior involvement in vetting Muslim chaplains for the Pentagon. One chaplain who served in Guantanamo Bay was arrested recently on suspicion that he was gathering intelligence.

Alamoudi, who was arrested Sunday on his return from a trip to Europe and the Middle East, has been ordered held without bail.

Alamoudi has denied the charges.

Muslim Groups Honored

The FBI plans next week to give its highest civilian honor to an Arab-American activist who in the past was the target of an FBI investigation on suspicion that he sympathized with terrorist organizations.

Imad Hamad, Midwest regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, is scheduled to receive the Exceptional Public Service Award from FBI Director Robert Mueller in Washington next Thursday.

He will be recognized for co-chairing a Detroit group that works to build confidence in law enforcement agencies among Arab-Americans while honing the agencies’ sensitivity to his community’s concerns.

Some conservative pundits and organizations are objecting to the FBI’s choice of Hamad for the award. Hamad, who is of Palestinian origin, was suspected for years of having connections to Palestinian terrorist groups, after having participated in anti-Israeli demonstrations as a student in the early 1980s. The Immigration and Naturalization Service attempted to deport him, but he was cleared in court, allowed to apply for citizenship and finally became an American citizen a year ago.

The anti-discrimination committee is not the only controversial organization that is set to be honored for its civil rights efforts. On October 25, the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will grant an award to the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR officials have also voiced support of Hezbollah and Hamas in the past.

Woman Sues for Art

An 87-year-old widow has been called to the Supreme Court to defend her claim against Austria for $150 million worth of paintings looted by the Nazis.

The high court will decide whether Maria Altman, who fled the Nazis and now lives in Los Angeles, can sue the Austrian government for the theft of her family’s six Gustav Klimt paintings.

The case, which is expected to set important precedents for foreign countries being sued in American courts, will be heard sometime this winter. Courts in California have said that Altman can sue the Austrian gallery holding the paintings and the Austrian government in the United States. Austria appealed to the Supreme Court to stop the suit.

Bookkeeper Found Guilty

A federal jury Tuesday convicted Betty Shusterman, the 74-year old former bookkeeper at suburban Philadelphia’s Temple Sinai, for helping to embezzle $1.2 million from the congregation.

Shusterman, who had been the synagogue’s bookkeeper since 1963, began working in 1993 with the synagogue’s executive director, Barry Wilf, to siphon funds into an account for the fictional “Temple Sinai Breakfast Club.” The 2,000 checks they wrote amounted to a 10th of the congregation’s budget, and Shusterman herself made away with $300,000. Wilf was already convicted in June for his role in the scheme after pleading guilty.

Shusterman will be sentenced early next year and is expected to get a four- to five-year prison term.

Nobel Speculation Ripe

In the annual guessing game of who will win the Nobel Peace Prize, this year a number of possibilities of interest to the Jewish community have come up.

At the top of many lists is Pope John Paul II, famous for his efforts to reconcile the Catholic and Jewish communities. As the Pope’s health has declined sharply, he has been outspoken in his opposition to the war in Iraq, an issue that was a favorite of the famously political Nobel Committee last year when they awarded former president Jimmy Carter the prize.

Israel Singer, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, said that the pope would make a good choice, “not for his opposition for war in Iraq but for his achievements toward understanding and peace his whole life.”

But according to Irwin Abrams, author of “The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates,” the pope’s candidacy may hit a snag.

“With a lot of religious conflicts going on,” Abrams said, “they might be stepping into a wasps nest in picking a leading person in a world religion. But he has been a reconciler, and he won’t be around for long.”

The award cannot be awarded posthumously, and there is some question as to what will happen if the increasingly feeble pope dies after he is named the winner but before he receives the prize.

The Nobel Committee announced on Monday that a winner had been chosen, but the name will not be made public until October 10.

Another one of the record-breaking 165 nominees for this year’s award is a joint entry: the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and the Moscow Helsinki Group. The organizations are up for their work securing human rights in the former Soviet Union.

The European Union recently extended a major grant to the Soviet Jewish union to combat extremism and xenophobia in the Russian Federation.

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