The PTech connection?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 24, 2008


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Between late 2002 and early 2003, the now defunct Fleet Bank in Boston attracted the attention of federal anti-terrorist investigators. The investigators were seeking to disrupt the flow of cash to Islamists suspected of plotting violence.

Over the course of three months, 20 Fleet Bank accounts were shut as part of that effort. One of those belonged to Aafia Siddiqui, a 1995 MIT graduate well-known among many in Greater Boston's Muslim community.

The Pakistan-born Siddiqui has since achieved international notoriety. Siddiqui was captured this summer in Afghanistan and was this week found mentally unfit for trial, where she faced a staggering array of charges. In plain language, those charges allege her to have been a kingpin of international terror finance. FBI Director Robert Mueller called Siddiqui an al-Qaeda operative. The CIA said her arrest was "the most significant capture in five years" of the war on terror.

Siddiqui's Boston ties, and the allegations that she was using Fleet Bank to finance and arm terrorists, made local headlines.

The identities of most of the other targeted Fleet customers remain unknown — except for reports that at least five of those accounts were held by employees of a small Boston-area software company called PTech. PTech itself was raided by federal authorities on suspicion of terrorist-funding ties in December 2002.

One PTech employee was very public about his allegations that federal investigators had shut down his and other PTech workers' accounts unfairly, and from purely anti-Arab motivations. He is Hassan Aljabri — now the president of the Roxbury mosque's board of directors.

Aljabri gave nearly $50,000 to the mosque between 2000 and 2002. He was one of several PTech employees who were actively involved with the mosque, including the company's CEO, who donated more than $10,000.

PTech's chief architect, Suheil Laher, is the long-serving Muslim chaplain at MIT. Although he holds no title with the Islamic Society of Boston or the Muslim American Society of Boston (MAS-Boston), Laher is active in both. He is also closely related by marriage to Anwar Kazmi, who has been the mosque's primary local fundraising coordinator, and Salma Kazmi, who until last year was the spokesperson and assistant director for the project.

Also working at PTech, as network administrator, was Saladin Ali-Salaam — son of Muhammad Ali-Salaam, the Boston Redevelopment Authority employee who played a key role in the mosque's development.

No charges were brought against PTech.

Federal authorities, however, have not stepped back their claims that PTech was largely funded by Yassin al-Kadi, a person the federal government considers a "specially designated terrorist."

Aljabri and the others whose accounts were closed were not charged with crimes.

Community complaints led the state's then–attorney general, Thomas Reilly, to investigate Fleet's action in closing the accounts.

The attorney general's investigation concluded that the accounts were closed for proper reasons, not due to discrimination.

MAS-Boston's executive director, Bilal Kaleem, calls the PTech raid and the closing of the PTech employees' bank accounts examples of "post-9/11 fears gone wild."

But at least three individuals connected with PTech have faced charges or accusations of aiding terrorists. Two of those individuals were convicted of related charges.

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  Topics: News Features , Suheil Laher, Muslim American Society, Anwar Kazmi,  More more >
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