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Ujaama Ordered Detained in Seattle

James Ujaama, the man prosecutors allege tried to set up an Al Qaeda training camp in Bly, Oregon was denied bail today at a hearing in Seattle.

Ujaama has a lot of family support in both Denver and Seattle. His mother and aunt offered to put up their homes for bail but the Court refused, saying it wouldn't assure he wouldn't flee the country before his trial. Ujaama previously worked as an anti-drug crusader and community activist in Seattle, a fact the Judge today acknowledged before stating, "He was a fine citizen over those years but people change.''

Ujaama was arrested in Denver on July 22 on a material witness warrant. He was transferred to Virginia around July 29 and held there until an Indictment for providing material resources to a terrorist organization was returned against him in Seattle. He was then moved to Seattle.

Ujaama was born in Denver as James Thompson. He moved with his family to Seattle when he was 5. His aunt was formerly married to Mayor Wellington Webb's son. The Mayor was unhappy when the Rocky Mountain News printed the connection. But News publisher John Temple thought it was relevant reporting because "the raid occurred in a home now maintained by the ex-wife of the mayor's son, Allen Sr." and because the mayor's 15 year old granddaughter Jamie, cousin to James Ujaama, was in the house at the time police surrounded it to make the arrest. The neighbors reported that Jamie ran out of the house hysterical, claiming that the police had put a gun to her head, which the police have denied. (Rocky Mountain News, July 27)

Before his Indictment, The Rocky Mountain News reported that Ujaama's Denver lawyer confirmed the feds had been considering providing him with immunity at one point. It isn't known why they changed their minds and decided to prosecute him instead.

Ujaama's case was has been shrouded in secrecy since the beginning, but he was able to give a 90 minute interview to the Rocky Mountain News before being moved to Virginia. During the interview Ujaama denied reports that he had supplied laptop computers to the Taliban but admitted that he helped design a British website, StopAmerica.org while in London, a place he has also lived. He made no secret of his belief that the American government is corrupt and the bombing campaign in Afghanistan was unjustified. But he also said he had never heard of Al Qaeda before September 11. (Rocky Mountain News, July 24.)

"At the time of his arrest, Ujaama said he was developing a new Web site and "political action committee" to be called 'peaceamerica.org.' He confirmed Tuesday he has visited Karachi, Pakistan, several times in recent months, but he denied being a terrorist, having ties to terrorists or harboring any terrorist ambitions. Instead, he said, his primary activity in Karachi has been launching a Web and software development company, while also exploring other avenues for economic development. " (Rocky Mountain News, July 24.)

While in jail in Virginia, Ujaama was injured by another inmate. After the incident had been reported in the Rocky Mountain News, Leila McDowell, a Ujaama family representative, wrote the following letter to the Editor of the News. (RMN, September 14.)

"Ujaama is also a loving father and a dedicated community and peace activist who has won numerous awards for his service to youth and against drugs."

"He has never attempted to push his religion on anyone. His voice has always been raised secularly for understanding between cultures, for peace and on behalf of high-risk youth. Calling him an "alleged Islamic terrorist" implies that the main focus of his advocacy is Islam, which is simply inaccurate. Even the indictment against Ujaama does not accuse him of being an "Islamic terrorist" but of "aiding and abetting" a terror group, a significant difference that should be acknowledged."

"We know that Ujaama is innocent and the facts of this case will come out in court. But who in the press will restore his shattered reputation after that process? Indeed, many of us suspect that this is a "test case," potentially establishing dangerous precedents for our precious right to dissent."

"It is important that those in the fourth estate be especially careful in these perilous times to observe fairness and objectivity in their reporting."

"We ask the News to respect this man's right to be considered innocent, his right to a fair trial and his right to dignity. We ask that the News refrain from the inflammatory labeling that it used so indiscriminately in its recent article and that it objectively report the facts."

And in a September 26 letter to the Editor of the Denver Post, Ujaama's mother Carolyn Thompson wrote:

"I believe in my son's innocence. His case should be tried before a jury, not the press, which has already asked the public to convict him based on unsubstantiated leaks. This case is about a law passed in the heat of emotion after Sept. 11, a law that takes powers from the judicial and legislative branches and gives them to the executive. Unlimited authority placed in the hands of one branch of the government is dangerous and it is not what this nation is all about. We should all be concerned."

Ujaama's family has loudly protested the conditions of his incarceration, charging he "has been kept in solitary confinement at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, south of Seattle. He has been barred from contacting his mother and the rest of his family and has been granted just one phone call to his lawyers in the past two weeks. There has been so much secrecy surrounding his case that officials at the Federal Detention Center routinely say they have no public record of him. Even his lawyers were told that, they say. "We were told that he wasn't there," Seattle lawyer Peter Offenbecher said Wednesday. "And it's certainly true that he has not been able to call or visit with his family." (Associated Press, September 25.)

Ujaama was allowed to meet with his lawyers several times before todays hearing. His trial is now set for November, but likely will be continued, perhaps for up to a year. And unless the Court either revokes today's detention Order, or is reversed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Ujaama will remain in custody until then.

[note: all articles not linked to above are available on Lexis]

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