Seda seeks freedom on bail pending appeal

Pete Seda has this week to convince a panel of federal judges that he should remain free on bail pending what attorneys said could be a lengthy appeal of his money-laundering and tax-evasion convictions.

The 54-year-old former Ashland peace activist has been ordered by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan to begin serving his 33-month prison sentence Jan. 23 at the federal correctional facility in Sheridan, northwest of Salem.

His attorney has filed motions with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, is an excellent and reliable candidate to remain free on bail while the court hears his appeal — which likely will last longer than his prison term.

Hogan has rejected a similar request in U.S. District Court, and federal prosecutors continue to argue that Seda is a flight risk for several reasons, including his former status as an international fugitive hiding in Syria and Iran while avoiding extradition to face his 2005 indictment.

Defense attorney Larry Matasar counters that Seda's time free while wearing an electronic GPS bracelet has been spotless and that the federal officer monitoring Seda has recommended he get bail, court documents state.

A jury in September 2010 convicted Seda on tax-evasion and conspiracy charges for using his defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation charity to help smuggle $150,000 from Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and signing a fraudulent tax return to cover it up.

Though prosecutors argued Seda's motive was to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya, Hogan ruled they failed to make that connection.

Had that connection been made, Seda could have received as much as eight years in prison under federal terrorism sentencing guidelines.

Defense filings with the appeals court so far have not detailed what issues and alleged errors in Hogan's many rulings will be the focus of the appeal, though one filing by Matasar referred to "several substantial issues."

For the better part of the past three years, the former Ashland arborist has been living in a Portland apartment with his wife, Summer Rife, and working at an unspecified job. He has been allowed to travel freely between Portland and Ashland, according to a defense filing.

Among references in court filings by attorneys representing the government are details about the two passports Seda surrendered after his voluntary return from the Middle East in 2007 to fight the indictment.

Upon returning, Seda initially surrendered a U.S. passport and in interviews told federal officials that he spent time in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE during his two-and-a-half years as a federal fugitive, according to court filings. But that passport contained no stamps indicating travel in or out of Iran or Syria, filings state.

Seda's defense team later revealed that Seda — who was born in Iran and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen with dual Iran-U.S. citizenship — also had an Iranian passport issued in 2006, court filings state.

That passport included "a photograph that depicted him in a manner quite different from what he looked like when arrested in 2007, and also had a different date of birth and a different spelling of his name," the filing states.

Prosecutors did not elaborate but did argue that Seda could take advantage of his dual citizenship to get a new Iranian passport and flee the country.

Mark Freeman is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470 or by email at

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