Pete Seda trial date pushed back to Aug. 30

Pete Seda's upcoming trial on federal charges alleging he illegally funneled money through his Ashland-based Islamic charity to help fund international terrorism has been delayed because of a family emergency for a member of his defense team.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan on Wednesday postponed the June 7 start of Seda's trial on federal money-laundering and tax-fraud charges to Aug. 30.

Defense attorneys last week sought a delay in the trial because of an injury to the wife of defense attorney Larry Matasar, said Terrie Martin, a Medford writer who is involved with the defense team.

Sandy Matasar was struck and injured by a car earlier this month in downtown Portland, Martin said.

Hogan signed the delay Wednesday so Larry Matasar could help tend to her unspecified medical condition. Hogan's order also cited the complexity of the case against the 52-year-old Seda, a former Ashland arborist known in the community for his peace activism.

Wednesday's order was the latest turn in the case involving Seda's activities as part of his Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation chapter in Ashland, which the government has characterized as a portal for funding Islamic terrorists and has portrayed Seda as a supporter of terrorism cloaked behind a peace-activist persona.

The six-year-old case has involved everything from Russian agents, anti-terrorism efforts in several countries, warrantless wiretaps and even a subpoena for Saudi Arabian bank records issued under the Patriot Act.

A federal grand jury in 2005 indicted Seda on charges that in 2000 he helped Soliman Al-Buthe — a Saudi Arabian and partner in the Ashland charity — smuggle $150,000 from Ashland to Saudi Arabia to help what Seda called Muslim refugees in Chechnya. The alleged refugee group was later labeled as a terrorist organization.

Federal investigators in 2004 traced the money — in the form of traveler's checks and a cashier's check — to a Saudi Arabian bank. The checks allegedly were cashed by Al-Buthe. The government has used a Patriot Act subpoena in an attempt to gain those records.

The charges also allege Seda covered up the transactions in the charity's tax returns by overstating the purchase price of a prayer mosque in Missouri.

Seda was out of the country in February 2004 when federal agents raided his Ashland house, which also served as the charity's headquarters.

After more than two years as an international fugitive living in the Middle East, Seda returned in November 2007 to fight the charges and he remains free under federal supervision.

The federal government later labeled Al-Buthe and the Al-Haramain chapter as supporters of terrorism, but Seda so far has sidestepped that designation.

The chapter and Al-Buthe also were at the center of a federal civil lawsuit challenging the warrantless eavesdropping program begun by the Bush administration. A federal judge since ruled that the wiretapping was illegal.

Mark Freeman is a reporter at the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at

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