Pete Seda denies government claims, hopes to learn from mistakes

Pete Seda denied the government's claims against him today at the end of a daylong sentencing hearing on his money-laundering and conspiracy convictions related to a now defunct Islamic charity in Ashland.

U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan recessed the hearing in Eugene without deciding the fate of the 52-year-old former peace activist and arborist. Hogan said he will rule in writing within a few weeks.

Seda, who did not testify at his September trial, denied ever allowing money to pass through him to fund violence. Sitting while shackled and in Lane County Jail garb, Seda said he has rejected terrorism all his life and hopes to work toward peaceful religious coexistence as he did for 20 years in Ashland.

Seda said he was "ashamed" of some of the literature he passed out to Muslim prisoners through his Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland, which included a form of the Quran that contained an appendix calling for Muslim holy war against non-believers.

"Terrorism can never be good, positive or helpful," Seda told Hogan.

"I pray the court allow me to move forward in learning from my past and mistakes," he said. "Justice, love and compassion will endure."

Hogan said the sentencing arguments on whether to handled Seda as a terrorist were so complicated he wanted to issue his decision in writing, and that could be "in a couple weeks." No new court date was set today.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Seda could be sentenced to the maximum of eight years in federal prison should Hogan find Seda intended to support terrorism when he helped smuggle about $150,000 out of the United States in 2000 and lied on his taxes to cover it up.

If the terrorism enhancement is denied, he could be sentenced to as little as time already served in jail.

After Tuesday's hearing, Seda remained in the Lane County Jail.

— Mark Freeman

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