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Jail for Muslim charity head
August 19, 2003 16:25 IST
A Syria-born American heading a Muslim charity has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison on charges of diverting money intended for refugees to Islamic militant groups.
Enaam Arnaout, 41, whom prosecutors sought to link with Osama bin Laden, must serve nearly 10 years before he is eligible for parole.
The judge had earlier declined a prosecution request to boost the sentence to 20 years on the basis of Arnaout's ties to the Al Qaeda.
The judge also imposed a fine of $315,624 to be given to the United Nations for the refugee work. Arnaout's charity had collected money for helping refugees.
Arnaout had admitted that he had diverted thousands of dollars from his charity, Benevolence International Foundation, to get supplies like tents and uniforms for militant groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. The defence argued that the motive in helping militants was to get access to widows, refugees and orphans.
The foundation, based in a Chicago suburb until it was shut down in 2002, funnelled about $20 million to Muslim countries over eight years in the 1990s to help widows, orphans and refugees.
Arnaout maintained that he was innocent and wanted to lead a peaceful life.