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Statement of Enaam Arnaout
BIF chief pleads guilty to racketeering, releases statement to media and American Muslim community
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Date:  Monday, February 10, 2003  

The criminal justice system, although at times flawed, is a truth-seeking process. Today, the truth about Enaam Arnaout and Benevolence International Foundation was finally revealed. The plea agreement entered into today is an acknowledgment by the government that neither Mr. Arnaout nor BIF ever provided any support to al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or any other terrorist organization.  The agreement further demonstrates that Mr. Arnaout and BIF never supported any activity that was contrary to the interests of the United States.

In entering a plea today, Mr. Arnaout made a decision that he believes is in the best interest of his family, the charity, and the American Muslim community.  For the last nine months, Mr. Arnaout has anxiously been awaiting a trial which he believed would demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that he never supported any terrorist organization.  However, as the trial date approached, Mr. Arnaout and his attorneys were acutely aware of the impact the horrific events of September 11 have had on all Americans, the never ending media frenzy about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the recent raising of the nation's terrorist alert status, and the constant drumbeat about a war with Iraq. Mr. Arnaout and his counsel greatly appreciate Judge Conlon's efforts to ensure that he receive a fair trial.  In the end, however, one has to question whether a fair and impartial jury could be found anywhere in America today that could sit in judgment of an Arab-American in a case involving allegations of terrorism.

Mr. Arnaout has acknowledged today that he violated the law. It is important that you understand exactly what conduct was involved. Mr. Arnaout pleaded guilty to using BIF donations in providing boots, tents, uniforms, and an ambulance to units of the Bosnian army at a time when Muslims in Bosnia were attempting to defend themselves against the genocidal atrocities of the Serbian army. Mr. Arnaout also acknowledged that he used BIF funds to provide, in the fall of 1995, hunting boots to civilians and fighters in Chechnya who faced a winter of war against the Russian army, which had invaded Chechnya in 1994. Subsequently, Mr. Arnaout provided uniforms to the justice department of the Chechen government which was being formed in 1997.  Mr. Arnaout acknowledged today that BIF did not tell its donors that a very small portion of the more than $20 million donated to BIF was spent on the support provided to the Bosnian army and Chechen fighters.

Mr. Arnaout has been humbled by the outpouring of support he has received from the Muslim community.  He regrets that the good works of BIF have been obscured by this process and hopes that the community will continue to support the world's needy.  

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