Thu, Jun 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Convert recounts his doubts about Muslim charity

AP , MIAMI

A California man who converted to Islam as a teenager testified on Tuesday that he began to doubt the work of his Muslim charity after a satellite phone was mysteriously disconnected and an associate returned from wartorn Chechnya with part of a leg missing.

Jeremy Collins, 33, worked in the mid-1990s with Kifah Wael Jayyousi, who is on trial for allegedly supporting Islamic extremist causes worldwide along with alleged al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla and a third defendant. All three face life in prison if convicted.

Collins said he distanced himself from a group Jayyousi led called American Worldwide Relief after an associate returned with the land mine injury from Chechnya, which was attempting to break free from Russian rule and set up an Islamic state.

"It was just chaos. There was no relief work," Collins said he learned from his injured friend. "There seemed to be more fighting than relief work."

Questions about the organization also were raised when a US$20,000 satellite telephone American Worldwide Relief had bought was shut down in early 1996 at the request of the Russian government, Collins said. The Russians claimed it was being used by Chechen rebels against their forces.

"How did a phone get into rebel hands, and get shut off and not reinstated?" Collins said he thought at the time.

Prosecutors are attempting to show that Padilla, a US citizen held for three-and-a-half years as an enemy combatant, was recruited by an organization including Jayyousi and Adham Amin Hassoun as part of a global network to support violent Islamic causes.

Padilla was added to the Miami case in late 2005 amid a legal battle over the extent of President George W. Bush's wartime powers to detain US citizens.

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