Editorial - The New York Sun - February 11, 2003
It's going to be illuminating to see how things go at the sentencing of the leader of one of America's biggest Muslim charities, Enaam M. Arnaout, who pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Chicago to charges of illegally funneling humanitarian donations to rebel fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya to pay for military supplies. The case against Arnaout, who headed the Benevolence International Foundation, was based primarily on allegations that he was funneling money to Osama bin Laden's terror network. But prosecutors dropped those charges after evidentiary rulings went against them in certain aspects of the case. On the single felony charge to which Arnaout pled, he could still face a reported 20 years in prison.
The government's decision to accept a plea to a single, and relatively minor, count so as to avoid a risky trial reminds us of its decision to accept a plea to a single count in another emotionally charged case, that of Jonathan Pollard. One of the things the government was hoping for was Pollard's cooperation in untangling the case and rectifying in so far as possible, the damage. The country with which he was in league, Israel, was one of America's closest friends. But at the sentencing, the government, unhappy with his level of cooperation, failed to back up its agreement. And Pollard drew a life sentence which he is still serving.
We comprehend that the two cases are not comparable. It was no friendly country to which Arnaout was accused of funneling money, but a vicious extra governmental terrorist organization levying war against America. Supposedly the government agreed to drop charges in hopes of getting Arnaout's cooperation as its investigation continues. The New York Times reported that one of the things the government wanted to learn was Arnaout's contacts in Afghanistan during the early days of Al Qaeda. So it'll be illuminating to see what happens come sentencing time if the government doesn't get the kind of cooperation on which it was banking.