Earnest James Ujaama

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Earnest J. Ujaama
Native name عبد القادر
Born 1965 (age 52–53)
Education MA. Ed. – Antioch University – Seattle
B.A.University of Washington
Known for
Spouse(s) F. Kahin (1997–2007)

Earnest J. Ujaama (born 1965) is an American Muslim social activist and former entrepreneur trainer.

On July 22, 2002, Ujaama was arrested as a Material Witness warrant, becoming the first American to be detained on U.S. soil while under investigation using the Patriot Act.[1]

It is true that the case against Ujaama has from the very beginning been very "complicated".[2] There were many charges by the government and in the media that constantly evolved and changed over the period of nearly 13 years. For example, the charge that Ujaama was involved in possibly seeking to poison water supplies with links to the Al-Qaeda network.[3][4]

Most news stories reported Ujaama as being a well-known and prominent activist in the community which made it difficult for the Government to simply brand him a terrorist so easily.[5] BBC world news reported "Al-Qaeda suspect arrested in Denver" but then also cited "Seattle newspapers said Mr. Ujaama was well-known in the black community".[5] CNN Reported, "For years, James Ujaama was known as a prominent community activist in Seattle, working to help the city's poor and promoting entrepreneurship as a way up the economic ladder".[6]

Conflicting reports in the Media[edit]

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, "the lead FBI in the case testified that he did not believe the terrorism conspiracy suspect was sufficiently dangerous that he needed to be locked up pending his trial.." (Skolink, Sam. November 12, 2002. Ujaama isn’t threat, agent says. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.) CNN also reported on September 3, 2002, "A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted a well-known Islamic activist in the Seattle-area on charges of trying to set up an al Qaeda terrorist training camp in rural Oregon in an attempt to further promote "violent jihad" against the United States." (CNN Seattle man indicted on terror charges).

In almost every newspaper report, the government was cited or journalists reported that Ujaama was either a major Al-Qaeda terrorist conspirator or a hustler out to make a buck. On July 24, 2002, The Seattle Times, Winner of Ten Pulitzer Prizes, reported "Ujaama's conversion: A passion for business, then zealotry for Islam." The article went on to describe Ujaama's past efforts to keep kids out of drugs and gangs by teaching them entrepreneurship and as "charismatic young man planted firmly in the mainstream of America's capitalism." The reporters of the article noted Ujaama's "work in Seattle's Central Area earned him the support and admiration of community leaders." But they went on to describe an investigation that "produced a starkly different image of this man a decade later: A zealous Islamic convert sharply critical of the United States [and] a man working in support of the Al-Qaida network." (Bernton, Hal; Heath, David; and Carter, Mike (2002, July 24). Ujaama's conversion: A passion for business, then zealotry for Islam. The Seattle Times.)

On July 17, 2002, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Columnist, Robert Jamieson, Jr. wrote that millions of people would come to know Ujaama as a "possible lackey for bin Laden and Muslim extremist." He cautioned that in a rush for quick conviction what would be lost was Ujaama was a community activist who had received a state proclamation for his work in steering youth away from the lure of drug selling and gang violence, or as a writer who successfully published a "hood novella" and as a man who had an "unbridled passion for helping the underdog and for railing loudly against injustice." His article continued to offer up a description of Ujaama as not much different than who everyone admits he was then and is now, a man with a great gift of persuasion, passion for helping others, and a disdain for war and injustice. (Jamieson, Robert J. July 17, 2002. Real case against Ujaama yet to be made. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)

In the end, Politico magazine would report "the Terror camp that wasn’t" citing a fax where Ujaama wrote to the Egyptian-born Imam located in London, Abu Hamza al-Masri also known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa. In the fax, Ujaama wrote "Get away from dunia [earthly matters] and be among Muslims!" Citing a federal official, the magazine reported, "Ujaama basically saw this as a cash cow, [n]o self-respecting international terrorist would have anything to do with Ujaama's plan."

The magazine also reported that he wrote, referring to the Bly training camp, "It is 100% legal, and so are all of our activities." Government prosecutors did admit that much citing in their sentencing memorandum that Ujaama's flyer had advertised survival training, horse riding, archery, combat and martial arts, rifle and handgun handling, hunting and Koran recitation — all things that are actually legal.(Government Sentencing memorandum).

One of the members, Abdur-Rahim Ali Ar-Rashad, told the Seattle P-I, "We did nothing that any other group of white boys wouldn’t do. We shot targets and rode horses and that's it." He continued to charge, "Since we were black and Muslims and young, they figured we were doing something criminal."

Original indictment[edit]

In the government's original indictment, Ujaama is charged with one count of conspiracy to Provide Material Support and Resources. This indictment specifically mentions Al-Qaida as the intended receiver of support and resources and was the object of the conspiracy. The indictment also describes the "purpose of the conspiracy" as a plan to "offer and provide facilities in the United States of America for training of persons interested in violent jihad; to provide safe houses in the United States of America for the conspirators; to recruit persons interested in violent jihad and jihad training; to provide actual training of such persons in firearms, military and guerrilla tactics, and related activities; and to sponsor partially trained personnel for further violent jihad training and operations coordinated by Al Qaida, in order to assist such persons and groups to promote violent jihad activities around the world." (Ujaama indictment, 2002)

Although this indictment was thrown out it continues to be offered online as proof of Ujaama's allegiance to terrorism and an Al-Qaeda supporter. It primarily displayed by the website IPT (www.investigativeproject.org),[7] an organization founded by Steve Emerson in 1995, who has been called a "complete idiot" by the former U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, for false reporting on what he called "no go zones." Emerson and his Investigative Project on Terrorism has also been accused of "creating mass hysteria" and called a "discredited terrorism expert and Islamophobe." (Freidman, Robert. Terrorism financing: origination, organization, and prevention. Hearing before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundredth Eight Congress, first session. vol. 4, p. 178. ISBN 0756740304 "creating mass hysteria"; Hammer, Julie: Safi, Amid (2013). The Cambridge Companion to American Islam. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0521175524. "discredited terrorism expert")

Additionally, government prosecutors and agents closely involved in the investigation, admitted in both their sentencing memorandum and at the sentencing hearing, that "Ujaama testified at the Kassir trial that he did not intend for the Bly training camp to support al Qaeda. The government is aware of no information to the contrary." (Kassir transcript; US Government sentencing memorandum, US V. Ujaama, 04 CR 356, SDNY 2015).

Trial exchange[edit]

On August 27, 2002, Ujaama wrote in a statement published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "If I have broken any laws and am guilty of crimes against the American people, then I must be held accountable. The fact is that I am innocent of any wrongdoing and am fully prepared to face my accusers and defend myself in a court of law."

Almost Twelve years later, on May 6, 2014, at the trial of Abu Hamza, Ujaama again reiterated his innocence before a federal judge on direct and cross-examination testimony. This exchange was between Abu Hamza's lawyer, Mr. Jeremy Schneider and Ujaama: (Taken from the Abu Hamza trial transcript, May 1–6, 2014).

  • Mr. Schneider: Were you guilty of the crimes you were indicted for?
  • Mr. Ujaama: Back then I did not believe I was guilty, sir.
  • Mr Schneider: What did you think you were innocent of? What do you think you didn’t do?
  • Mr. Ujaama: That I did not give support to a terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda.
  • Mr. Schneider: But you pled guilty, didn’t you?
  • Mr. Ujaama: I did not plead guilty to giving material support to Al-Qaeda, no, sir.
  • […]
  • Mr. Schneider: So the question is — I asked you before, you said you weren’t guilty of the original indictment that you were charged with?
  • Mr. Ujaama: No, sir.
  • Mr. Schneider: No. So you were completely innocent. They charged you, the government in Seattle, Washington, made a complete mistake and charged the things that they were wrong about, is that right?
  • Prosecutor: Objection
  • Mr. Schneider: That's your understanding that they were wrong?
  • The Court: Why don’t you rephrase your question.
  • Mr. Schneider: Do you believe that the government charged you and you were innocent when you were first indicted?
  • Mr. Ujaama: I believe that the government charged me with a crime that I was not guilty of.
  • Mr. Schneider: Okay. Are you saying not guilty meaning they couldn’t prove it or not guilty meaning that you were innocent of it? It's different.
  • Mr. Ujaama: I was not guilty of it.
  • Mr. Schneider: Right. Because you did not do it.; you believed in your heart that you did not commit that crime, didn’t you?
  • Mr. Ujaama: I believed in my heart that I had never given support to Al-Qaeda.
  • Mr. Schneider continued with his attempt to break Ujaama.
  • Mr. Schneider: Well, one of the charges in the indictment was that you tried to contact a cooperator in May and June 2002 to find out if, in fact, that person was a witness against you, isn’t that right?
  • Mr. Ujaama: If that was a charge, it was not true.
  • Mr. Schneider: So, again, the government —
  • Prosecutor: Objection, your Honor.
  • Mr. Schneider: What, the word "again?" I apologize.
  • Mr. Schneider continues with his questioning Mr. Ujaama.
  • Mr. Schneider: So it's your position that the government charged you with something you were not guilty of, is that right?

The government again objects. Mr. Schneider decides he's had enough and simply moves on. His attempts to break Mr. Ujaama's conviction that he was innocent of supporting known terrorists were a complete failure.

  • Schneider: Now, did the [Government], as far as you know, did the prosecutors either in Washington or New York reinstate the original indictment.
  • Ujaama: They charged me for, my understanding is they charged me for all the crimes that I could be charged for, charged with.
  • Schneider: They never charged you — originally in your first indictment you were charged with the 924C, possession of a weapon in conjunction with Bly camp, right? Remember that?
  • Ujaama: Correct, sir.
  • Schneider: The government did not reinstate that charge against you after you violated the agreement, did they?
  • Ujaama: No, they did not.
  • Schneider: And neither New York nor Washington brought back that charge in any form against you, did they?
  • Ujaama: No, sir.

Final Charges[edit]

Interestingly, throughout the trial, Mr. Ujaama, enduring continued harassment and contentious questioning, maintained his innocence in supporting a terrorist organization. However, Ujaama had admitted his support for the Taliban, whom he believed, as well as the Bush Administration and members of the U.S. Supreme Court, to be the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Also it is very important to note that the Taliban has never been declared to be a Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States Department of State.

President Clinton signed an Executive Order 13129 on July 4, 1999, known as the International Emergencies Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701, AKA "IEEPA") forbidding U.S. citizens from "any transactions or dealings…" with the Taliban. This included "funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of the Taliban" and includes "services to the territory of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban…" which is why Ujaama would eventually plead guilty to violating the IEEPA for installing software for a friend to use on a computer owned by the Taliban, and "conspiring to take Feroz Abassi to go and fight with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance." However, Ujaama could only be sentenced once for this charge, and he was on April 2003.

Ujaama was charged with four counts:

  • (1) Title 18 USC 371 Conspiracy to provide and conceal material support, in relationship to a plan to develop a "jihad" training camp in Bly, Oregon;
  • (2) Title 18 USC 2339A Conspiracy to provide and conceal material support, in relationship to an agreement to take Feroz Abassi to Afghanistan to join the Taliban in their fight against Northern Alliance;
  • (3) Title 18 USC 2339A and 2 Providing and concealing material support, in relationship to [alleged] conduct of Feroz Abassi; and
  • (4) Unlawful Flight to Avoid Testimony in relationship to leaving the country without permission.[8]

The offense for count one ended on January 1, 2000. Although there had been an investigation in that same year, Ujaama was not charged with a crime until after August 2002. The government agreed that Ujaama had less knowledge of the ultimate purpose of the provision of the material support, because as they also stated, "(he) testified at the Kassir trial that he did not intend for the Bly training camp to support Al-Qaeda",[9] and "the government is aware of no information to the contrary".[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

On June 10, 1994, then Washington state lawmaker Jesse Wineberry issued a certificate declaring James Ujaama Day in the state of Washington. He was also presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Senator Harry Reid, a similar certificate from former U.S. Congressman James H. Bilbray, a key to the City of Las Vegas, and was honored by KCPQ13 as a "Special Person".[citation needed]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Ujaama, Ej. (1991). Young People's Guide to Starting a Business. Self-published.
  • Ujaama, Ej. (1993). Entrepreneur Basics 101. Seattle, WA: Be Your Own Boss Publishing.
  • Ujaama, Ej. (1994). How to Be An Entrepreneur. Seattle, WA: Be Your Own Boss Publishing.
  • Ujaama, Ej. (1996). Coming Up. Seattle, WA: Inner-City Publishing.
  • Strickland, Daryl. (1991, August 1). Young, Gifted and Black -- 'Living Large' The Legal Way – Entrepreneur, 25, Shares Tips on Business with Teen Gangs. The Seattle Times.


  1. ^ Feit, Josh (September 5, 2002). "A.K.A. Bilal Ahmed U.S. charges Seattle man with ties to al Qaeda". The Stranger. With the exception of Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, it's the first public indictment brought against a U.S. citizen on domestic terrorism charges in the Bush administration's "War on Terrorism". 
  2. ^ Snow, Kate. (2002, July 15). Are there al Qaeda sleeper agents in Seattle? CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports/CNN Transcripts.
  3. ^ Holguin, Jamie (July 24, 2002). "Seattle man arrested in terror probe". CBS News. 
  4. ^ Carter, Mike (October 10, 2010). "Terror-camp conspirator still in limbo". The Seattle Times. 
  5. ^ a b Editors (July 24, 2002). "Al-Qaeda suspect arrested in Denver". BBC News World Edition. 
  6. ^ Editors (August 29, 2002). "From community activist to alleged terror conspirator". CNN Law Center. 
  7. ^ "The Investigative Project on Terrorism". The Investigative Project on Terrorism. 
  8. ^ a b United States v. Earnest James Ujaama, 04 CR 356, SDNY 2015.
  9. ^ Kassir Trial, Testiomy, at 1308