Daily Southtown: Accused Palos Heights man released on $30,000 bail

Palos Heights resident in Islamic charity case

A Palos Heights man accused of helping illegally funnel money to Iraq during the 12 years between the two U.S. invasions there was released on $30,000 bail Monday.

Abdel Azim el-Siddiq, 50, of the 12200 block of South 69th Avenue, was indicted last week along with four others by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo.

El-Siddiq had remained in federal custody since his arrest Wednesday at O’Hare International Airport as he returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors initially opposed releasing el-Siddiq out of fear he could flee the country.

But at a brief hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Alesia said he agreed to the release after el-Siddiq offered to post $30,000 cash bail. The money was raised by community members, according to Ahmed Rehab, director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Mr. el-Siddiq has an excellent background, and I think that this is the appropriate way to proceed in this situation,” U.S. Magistrate Nan Nolan said before approving conditions of his release.

He will have to wear an electronic-monitoring device and is allowed to leave home only to work, attend religious services and travel to court dates for the case in Missouri. An arraignment date in Missouri has not been set.

In an affidavit filed with the court last week, el-Siddiq said he was a public relations specialist making $3,000 a month.

But according to the indictment, el-Siddiq is a former fundraiser and vice president for international operations for Islamic American Relief Agency-USA.

In 2004, the federal government froze the Missouri-based charity’s assets and declared it a global terrorism organization; last month, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld that decision. Officials claimed the group was affiliated with a Khartoum, Sudan-based organization that supports Osama bin Laden’s al-Quida network as well as the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

The indictment of el-Siddiq and the other four men tied to Islamic American Relief makes no mention of terrorism. They are accused of using the charity to violate sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations that made it illegal to send money to Iraq without special permission. They allegedly funneled $1.4 million to Iraq between 1991 and 2003; authorities haven’t said how the money was used.

El-Siddiq also was implicated in a scheme to use some government grant money meant for a humanitarian project in Africa to hire a lobbyist in a bid to convince members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee the charity should not have been designated a terrorist organization.

Although most of the other defendants live in Missouri, el-Siddiq — a naturalized citizen who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Sudan — is a longtime Chicago-area resident, Rehab said. More than a dozen family members and supporters attended the hearing Monday at Chicago’s federal courthouse.

Post 9-11, the bar for prosecuting Muslims has been loosened,” Rehab said. “And I think what we’ve seen is that a lot of these cases start off with a bang and then fizzle.”

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chack@dailysouthtown.com

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