Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Former D.C. School Official Charged With Terror Conspiracy

Former D.C. Official Charged With Terror Conspiracy
Jayyousi Ran School System's Facilities From 1999-2001

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 30, 2005; 5:09 PM

A former top official in the D.C. school system has been charged with conspiracy to support terrorism because of his alleged efforts for Muslim fighters in Chechnya and other areas, officials said today.

Kifah W. Jayyousi, 43, the chief facilities officer for D.C. schools between 1999 and 2001, plans to plead not guilty, according to his attorney. Jayyousi was in U.S. District Court in Detroit today seeking release on bond, said lawyer William Swor in a telephone interview.

Jayyousi, a Jordanian-born U.S. citizen, was arrested Sunday at Detroit International Airport when he arrived on an overseas flight, according to FBI officials. He and Kassem Daher, a Canadian resident, were charged on Monday with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to commit acts such as murder or kidnapping outside the United States.

According to an FBI affidavit, Jayyousi and Daher belonged to a North American network that raised funds and recruited Islamic militants to fight in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Somalia.

The affidavit suggested that Jayyousi was under surveillance by the FBI even as he worked as a District school official. On Nov. 15, 1999, several months after starting the job in the District, Jayyousi assured an acquaintance by phone that funds were being provided to Chechen fighters through the Global Relief Foundation, according to the affidavit. Global Relief, a major U.S. Islamic charity, was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2002 as a supporter of terrorism.

That is the latest event in the affidavit linking Jayyousi to the foreign fighters. Spokespersons at FBI headquarters and in Miami, where the investigation has based and the criminal complaint was unsealed, declined comment on the case.

According to the affidavit, Jayyousi was a follower of Omar Abdul Rahman, the "blind sheik," who was convicted in 1995 of directing supporters to bomb New York City landmarks. From 1994 to 1996, Jayyousi published a newsletter, Islam Report, that provided updates on Rahman's legal case and promoted "jihad" overseas, the affidavit said.

Jayyousi also ran two charities, the American Islamic Group and American Worldwide Relief, which were described in the affidavit as vehicles to raise money and find fighters for foreign Muslim causes. In 1995 and 1996, Jayyousi allegedly recruited at least two people to fight in Chechnya and arranged for equipment to be sent to Chechen commanders, including satellite phones, the affidavit said.

Swor, the attorney, said that the former District official was "really being prosecuted for his constitutionally protected speech."

"This is another one of those 'We've got secret evidence that's so secret we can't tell you about it' cases," he said.

Jayyousi was fired from his school job in April 2001 by then-Superintendent Paul L. Vance, who accused him of failing to properly manage his department and of endangering children's health. That latter charge was related to a botched renovation project that resulted in asbestos being released from a school ceiling.

The FBI affidavit said Jayyousi had been living in Egypt in recent years. His attorney, however, said that Jayyousi maintained a home in Detroit and had been working temporarily outside the country for a U.S. firm, which he declined to identify.

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