Although the court ruled Abd al-Rahman al-Amoudi was not a danger to the community on Thursday, District Court Judge Claude Hilton denied his bail request and set the next hearing for 16 February 2004.
Hilton said he considered al-Amoudi well-connected abroad with a knowledge and ability to raise funds, and therefore represented a serious flight risk.
The judge’s decision will come as a blow to a man who worked with the US State Department under the Clinton administration in the 1990s as a goodwill ambassador to Muslim countries.
The ruling comes despite dozens of affidavits and testimonies from diverse members of the community who have known him for over 20 years and described his trustworthiness and sincerity.
A former executive director of the American Muslim Council and the president of the American Muslim Foundation, al-Amoudi was a respected figure on the Washington political scene.
“If a non-Muslim had been accused of a similar offense, they would have received a civil fine rather than sitting in jail for five months without having been proved guilty of anything”
He was a guest at the White House a number of times during the Clinton years and donated money to several politicians during the 2000 election campaign.
More recently, he has also met President George Bush.
A spokesman for the Peace and Justice Foundation, Mawri Salakhan, said denying such a prominent American citizen bail was a disgrace, if not unexpected.
“If a non-Muslim had been accused of a similar offense, they would have received a civil fine rather than sitting in jail for five months. This amounts to guilty until proven innocent.”
Salakhan added that there were plenty of other options such as house arrest coupled with electronic surveillance monitoring, given al-Amoudi’s extensive personal and business ties to the community and his international prominence.
Support for Hamas
But the 51-year-old has been imprisoned since his arrest in September at Dulles International Airport in Virginia with repeated reference to his trips to Libya and his “support for Hamas”.
The US government continues to link the case to terrorist financing, even though no formal terrorism related charges have been filed.
“If you talk about Cuba or Ireland, it seems our government can distinguish between political and military wings of resistance movements. Such understanding is not afforded Muslim resistance movements,” Salakhan added.
Al-Amoudi’s case was handed to US law enforcement officials by British intelligence officers, who searched him as he prepared to leave for Syria from London’s Heathrow Airport on 16 August and found $340,000 in his luggage.
According to an affidavit filed by the investigators, al-Amoudi told British investigators he had received the money from a Libyan.
In order to avoid US Customs, he had been planning to deposit it in Saudi banks and then feed it back into the United States in smaller amounts.
British investigators also claim that in addition to his US passport, al-Amoudi, born in Eritrea but a naturalised US citizen since 1996, had a Yemeni travel document, which he used for flights to Tripoli.