A former U.S. congressman and ambassador to the U.N. pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and acting as an illegal foreign agent in relation to his work with an international organization found to have terrorist ties.
“Mark Deli Siljander, 59, of Great Falls, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to one charge contained in an Oct. 21, 2008, federal indictment, and an additional charge filed today (July 7), involving his work for the Islamic American Relief Agency of Columbia, Missouri,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In pleading guilty, Siljander admitted that he repeatedly lied in interviews with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and federal prosecutors wherein he denied that he was hired to advocate the removal of IARA from a list of charities suspected by the Senate Finance Committee of having connections with terrorist groups.
IARA was forced to close in 2004 after the U.S. Treasury Department identified it as a global terrorist organization following the discovery of the support it provided to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Until 1999, the charity was a recognized government contractor. IARA lost this status after the U.S. Agency for International Development cancelled grants for relief projects in Mali, Africa. At the time, USAID told IARA the projects were not in line with the U.S.’s national security interests.
“Siljander repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors investigating serious crimes related to national security. With today’s guilty pleas, all of the defendants in this case have admitted their guilt and will be held accountable for their actions,” said Beth Phillips, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
The former congressman’s fellow defendant, a former IARA fundraiser named Abdel Azim El-Siddig, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to hire Siljander to rally IARA’s removal from the Senate list. IARA Executive Director Mubarak Hamed has already pleaded guilty for his connection with the case.
“Siljander, El-Siddig and Hamed each knew that IARA was part of a large international organization controlled by its headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, and agreed with each other to conceal Siljander’s efforts on IARA’s behalf,” the statement from the Department of Justice says.