KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - A former U.S. congressman from Michigan was sentenced to a year in prison on
Wednesday for accepting secret payments to try to help an Islamic charity get removed from a congressional watch list of relief agencies suspected of supporting terrorism.
Mark Deli Siljander, 60, a former three-term Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, pleaded guilty in 2010 to obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the now-defunct Islamic American Relief Agency.
As part of his plea deal, Siljander admitted he had lied to the FBI and prosecutors in denying he was hired by the Missouri-based charity, U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips of Kansas City said in a statement.
The agency, which Phillips said "secretly funneled more than a million dollars to Iraq" in violation of U.S. economic sanctions, was closed in 2004 after the U.S. Treasury Department designated it as a global terrorist organization.
That same year, it hired Siljander, who had served in Congress in the 1980s, to lobby for the agency's removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of funding terrorism, Phillips said. He also sought to get the agency reinstated as an approved government contractor, a status it lost in 1999, she said.
Phillips said Siljander received $75,000 in payments from the charity that the agency concealed by routing them through non-profit entities.
A 42-count federal indictment returned in 2008 had also accused the agency and its former executive director, Mubarak Hamed, of engaging in prohibited financial transactions for the benefit of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan mujahideen leader designated by the U.S. government in 2002 as a terrorist.
The government said that Hekmatyar, a former warlord who fought against the Soviet Union and later served as Afghanistan's prime minister in the 1990s, supported al Qaeda and the Taliban and had "vowed to engage in holy war against the United States and international troops in Afghanistan."
Siljander served in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly six years, from April 1981 to January 1987. He later ran a Washington-based business called Global Strategies, a marketing and public relations company. He also was an ambassador to the United Nations.
A federal judge in Kansas City sentenced Siljander to a year and a day in prison without parole. Four co-defendants affiliated with the Islamic charity also were sentenced on Wednesday.
The former director, Hamed, 55, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Sudan, received a prison term of four years and 10 months for conspiring to transmit more than $1 million to Iraq and attempting to obstruct laws regulating charities.
Agency fundraiser Abdel Azim El-Siddig, 55, of Chicago was sentenced to two years' probation. Six-month sentences were handed down to agency board member Ali Mohamed Bagegni, 57, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Libyan origin, and to fundraiser Ahmad Mustafa, 59, an Iraqi citizen who is also a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)