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James Ujaama, the Seattle man who pleaded guilty in 2003 to aiding the Taliban, admitted to a federal judge in New York on Monday that he fled to Belize last year to avoid testifying against his alleged co-conspirators.
Ujaama, 41, also pleaded guilty Monday to three terrorism charges, including a conspiracy charge related to Ujaama’s efforts to establish a jihad-training camp in Bly, Ore., in 1999.
The government had dropped the terrorism charges against Ujaama in 2003 after he agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in exchange for a two-year prison term.
Ujaama now faces up to 30 years in prison on the new charges against him. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12 in New York.
This comes after Ujaama was apprehended at a mosque in Belize with a fake Mexican passport:
The new charges are a stark turnaround for Ujaama, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to a lesser charge of conspiring to aid the outlaw Taliban government in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. Federal officials have called Ujaama’s help crucial in the 2004 indictment of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri on charges of trying to establish the training camp and providing aid to al-Qaida.
In exchange for the two-year prison sentence, which he completed in 2005, Ujaama agreed to testify against several high-profile alleged terrorism supporters, including al-Masri and at least two of al-Masri’s alleged henchmen, Oussama Kassir and Haroon Rashid Aswat.
Aswat has been questioned about the July 7, 2005, London subway and bus bombings that killed 56. All three men have been indicted in the U.S. in connection with the Bly training-camp plot.
Ujaama fled the U.S. with a fake Mexican passport on Dec. 5 of last year.
He was arrested outside a mosque in Belize on Dec. 18 after a scuffle with local police. Belize authorities said they were alerted by the international police agency Interpol that Ujaama was in the country.
Ujaama was returned to Seattle, and in February U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein sentenced him to two years in prison for violating the terms of his supervised release.
“You violated the trust I put in you,” Rothstein told Ujaama.
Yeah, let that be a lesson to other federal judges inclined to put their trust in jihadists.
Let this also be a lesson to the friends and family members of jihadists inclined to give the benefit of the doubt and play the damn race card. Here’s a flashback to my column in 2002 on the supporters of James Ujaama in Seattle. Think they’ll admit their errors now or cling to their delusions?
July 31, 2002
The friends of James Ujaama
Just when you think you know somebody, he goes and gets himself detained by the FBI for questioning in connection with alleged ties to the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden.
So, who do you stand by: your country or an individual who you’ve known all your life-but who may not be what he seems to be?
Such is the predicament of the friends and relatives of James Ujaama, a 36-year-old American black Muslim convert also known as James Earnest Thompson and Ahmed Bilal, who was born in Denver, raised in Seattle, and moved to London in 1996 to worship under militant Muslim cleric and al Qaeda recruiter Sheikh Abu Hamza Al-Masri.
Federal authorities have alleged that Ujaama/Thompson/Bilal delivered laptop computers to the Taliban in Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion last fall, and that he possessed documents about poisoning America’s water supply (reportedly confiscated from his Denver residence this week). Based on interrogations of Guantanamo Bay detainees, federal agents also believe Ujaama played a role in scouting out a jihad training camp in Bly, Oregon.
Ujaama hasn’t been charged with anything. He is, of course, innocent until proven guilty of any terrorism-related allegations. But if you are a family member or old acquaintance of such a suspect, you might properly feel alarmed. Angry. And maybe even secretly suspicious of the person you thought you knew so well, but perhaps had deep, unspoken doubts about over the years.
If you are a prominent local black activist or politician, however, you whip out your race card and start making excuses, spreading blame, and mouthing off when chastened silence would be the wiser course.
“I don’t know everything James Ujaama did when he was in London,” said Charlie James, a black community activist in Seattle who heads something called the “Organization of African American Unity.” “But I’ve been knowing (sic) him all his life.” Ujaama-who founded an extremist pro-Muslim website after September 11 called “StopAmerica.org” and visited Pakistan several times since the terrorist attacks -has a “streak of militancy,” James acknowledged. But he declared unequivocally that Ujaama is not a terrorist.
Ron Sims, King County, Wash. executive and the highest-ranking African American elected official in the state, echoed the declaration publicly. Of Ujaama and his younger brother, Mustafa, Sims said: “These two gentlemen are community activists, not terrorists.” Larry Gossett, a black King County councilman added: “Both of these cats have had a positive, contributing role in the African American community here.”
James Ujaama’s “biggest problem is that he’s so damn inquisitive that he’ll go anywhere anyplace anytime. I think that’s what got him in trouble,” Charlie James naively pontificated. Most of us satisfy our inquisitive impulses by visiting a library, not by hopscotching across hotbeds of al Qaeda activism. But never mind that. Building on this innocent scholar image, James told another reporter that Ujaama simply traveled abroad “to see how other Muslims are living.” He’s “a curious guy,” James said. “He goes out to see the world.”
Where did Ujaama, a young, self-employed computer technician of limited means, get the money for all these travels?
Of Ujaama and his brother’s visit to the Bly, Oregon site suspected of being a terrorist training camp, Charlie James shrugs. It was simply a recreational “practice shooting” trip, he pooh-poohs. Practice for what?
The questions refuse to enter James’ mind. Instead, he complains that “It’s the McCarthy era all over again” and suggests that news coverage of Ujaama’s activities is racist. “If he was a white youth doing the same thing, I don’t think it would say terrorist. But because he’s a Muslim and an African-American, it comes up terrorism.” (Hello? Has he not read about Taliban Johnny Walker and Jose Padilla?)
In the name of “African American Unity,” the political friends of James Ujaama refuse to believe he is anything other than a benign minority community activist under attack by a biased government. This self-serving love of racial demagoguery is blind, dumb, and dangerous.