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Seattle man indicted on terror charges

James Ujaama, right, was born James Earnest Thompson.  

From Kelli Arena
CNN Washington Bureau

SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted a well-known Islamic activist in the Seattle-area on charges of conspiring to set up an al Qaeda terrorist training camp in rural Oregon in an attempt to further promote "violent jihad" against the United States.

Earnest James Ujaama, a U.S. citizen, 36, was charged with two counts in an indictment handed up by the grand jury in Seattle.

The indictment says Ujaama "did knowingly conspire, combine, confederate and agree" to aid Osama bin Laden's terror network, dating back to the fall of 1999.

Ujaama, whose birth name is James Earnest Thompson, was taken into custody last month and has been held at a facility in Virginia, although authorities would not say whether he remains there.

Ujaama denied he had any terrorism links.

Read the indictment: U.S. v. Ujaama (FindLaw document; PDF format)
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"If I have broken any laws and am guilty of crimes against the American people, then I must be held accountable. The fact is that I am innocent of any wrongdoing and am fully prepared to face my accusers and defend myself in a court of law," Ujaama said in a statement released Wednesday by his attorney.

The indictment says the reason for the alleged plot was to "prepare for, and to carry out, a conspiracy to destroy property -- and to murder and maim others."

"The purpose of the conspiracy was to offer and provide facilities in the United States of America for training of persons interested in violent jihad; to provide safe houses in the United States of America for the conspirators; to recruit persons interested in violent jihad and jihad training; to provide actual training of such persons in firearms, military and related activities," the indictment says.

It goes on to say Ujaama allegedly conspired to "sponsor partially trained personnel for further violent jihad training and operations coordinated by al Qaeda."

The indictment says Ujaama himself told his conspirators, who are not named, that he "had attended violent jihad training camps, which were operated by al Qaeda." One of the alleged conspirators is referred to as a bin Laden "hitman."

During October 1999 and November of that year, Ujaama led discussions with others in Seattle and Bly, Oregon, about the need for further training in Afghanistan terror camps, "the commission of armed robberies, the building of underground bunkers to hide ammunition and weapons, the creation of poisonous materials for public consumption, and the firebombing of vehicles," the indictment charges.

It was near Bly that Ujaama allegedly set up the terror training camp. In a fax to one of his alleged conspirators, the indictment says Ujaama compared the property to terrain in Afghanistan and said could be good for storing and concealing "guns, bunkers and ammunition."

The government says Ujaama was involved in a plan to set up a training camp on this Oregon farm.
The government says Ujaama was involved in a plan to set up a training camp on this Oregon farm.  

According to the indictment, he and his alleged conspirators "established security for the Bly property through the use of guard patrols and passwords, and they and others participated in firearms training and viewed a video recording on the subject of improvised poisons."

During this time, Ujaama is also accused of helping operate a Web site for Supporters of Shariah, which the government says was used to "advocate violent jihad against the United States of America and other Western nations."

Earlier this year, while Ujaama was under investigation, he contacted a cooperating witness in May and June to find out whether another individual "who participated in the activities at Bly was cooperating with the government's investigation," the indictment says.

The indictment also says the self-described bin Laden "hitman" also contacted a cooperating witness during that time and asked "whether he should travel to Seattle to assess the situation."

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Ujaama was charged with using, carrying and discharging firearms during a crime of violence.

His attorney, Greg Stambaugh, said Wednesday he would have no comment until he had seen the indictment.

Ujaama is known for his work with the poor in Seattle and has written at least three educational books on entrepreneurship. According to a family friend, Ujaama converted to Islam in the post-civil rights era.

Ujaama's community work was so highly regarded that Seattle once gave him a key to the city and Washington state lawmakers declared June 10, 1994, James Ujaama Day, The Associated Press reported.

Ujaama has attended several mosques that have been investigated to determine whether some attendees were part of an al Qaeda cell operating in the United States, according to law enforcement source. He has lived in both Seattle and London in recent years.

While in London, Ujaama visited the Finsbury Mosque, where Sheikh Abu Hamza preached. Hamza is considered a radical Muslim who has praised the September 11 attacks, and American investigators have been looking into whether Hamza had a role in trying to recruit Americans for al Qaeda in the Seattle area.

Ujaama also traveled to Afghanistan in 1999 to study Islamic code, according to family friends.

Earlier this month, his brother, Mustafa Ujaama, said his brother's travels should not raise suspicions and that it was "completely, completely impossible" he had ties to terrorism.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.




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