New trial sought in Oregon Islamic charity case

Prosecutors in the trial of the Oregon leader of an Islamic charity branch used appeals to provoke prejudice and emotion that included waving the Qur’an in the air and throwing it on the table in front of jurors, his lawyers say in a request for a new trial.

Pete Seda, of Ashland, was convicted Sept. 9 of conspiracy to defraud the government and filing a false tax return in what prosecutors alleged was a plot to smuggle $150,000 to Muslim fighters in Chechnya by using the Ashland branch of a Saudi Arabian charity, Al-Haramain.

Among the defense’s objections filed last week is that on the morning the verdict was reached, a juror was seen at breakfast in a Eugene hotel reading a front-page story in USA Today about the plan of a Florida pastor to burn a Qur’an two days later on the anniversary of the attacks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani was named in the filing as the prosecutor who waved “the Qur’an around and then tossed it down on the table directly in front of the jury. The defense motion argues that Cardani waved the Noble Qur’an as he spoke to the jury about its distribution to “violent people, serving time.”

The defense said the use of the Qur’an “had the effect of allowing jurors to act based on emotion and also profoundly disrespected the defendant’s religion.” The action was part of a trial “tainted with fear of Muslims, Islam and terrorism,” the defense said.

Associated Press, 29 September 2010