James Ujaama

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Earnest James Ujaama
Born 1965 (age 50–51)

Earnest James Ujaama (born 1965) pleaded guilty on April 14, 2003 to conspiring to provide goods and services to the Taliban, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).[1]

Born in Denver, Colorado, in 1965 as James Earnest Thompson, he moved with his family to Seattle at the age of 5. He converted to Islam and changed his last name to Ujaama. On June 10, 1994, then Washington state lawmaker Jesse Wineberry issued a certificate declaring James Ujaama Day in the state of Washington. Ujaama 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."

James Ujaama established entrepreneur training programs for the City of Seattle and in the City of Las Vegas. He also wrote and published an entrepreneur training workbook, How to Be An Entrepreneur (1994), and a novella, Coming Up (1996). His novella was reviewed by VOYA Magazine (1996) and listed in Best Books for High School Readers (2004) and Best Books for Young Teen Readers (2000). How To Be An Entrepreneur was used by the NAACP, Small Business Administration, and Key Bank between 1994 and 1996. Ujaama personally met and signed a copy of his How To Be An Entrepreneur book to former US Small Business Administrator, Erskin Bowles, while on a visit to Washington for the annual Congressional Black Caucus event. Mr. Bowles had requested to meet Ujaama upon learning about his work in teaching entrepreneurship.

Mr. Ujaama wrote in his novella, "'Coming Up' ain't what it's all cracked up to be, for a young black man straight up; And, in America it ain't all straight. Solution: each one, teach one." His book traces the story of two young African-American men, entrepreneurs, who "upon graduating from high school at the top of their class... embark on a difficult (life) passage. Andre becomes a drug dealer and Hakim purchases a computer store; both become very successful..." Each experience the harsh realities of obtaining success in a White-male dominated society. But the most compelling part of the story is the structural racism faced by these two young entrepreneurs. Andre, after returning home and visiting with friends is arrested for association and loses his scholarship. Eventually, he is released with all charges dropped, but is introduced to a major drug dealer while in prison who promises him an opportunity to make more than enough money to take care of his family. Andre doesn't hesitate to accept the offer. Meanwhile, Hakim is facing another kind of structural racism at an all-White university where he too is attending on scholarship. He becomes a very successful computer dealer and store owner, but faces problems when he attempts to hire some friends from his neighborhood in Central Area Seattle. His frustration with structural racism, eventually drives him away and back to Seattle where he meets up with Andre and the two plot a come back. "I would give my life to do this movie," Ujaama writes in Coming Up, "We need to show our kids successful Black business owners. And, show them that we too have a history of business ownership. It's too bad that young men and women from the Black community can read and hear about Bill Gates and Paul Allen, but would not have a clue about Reginald Lewis or John Henry Johnson."

While traveling in England in 1999, he had meetings with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical Muslim cleric.[2] Ujaama traveled to Afghanistan in 1998 to study Sharia and offer his support to Taliban according to family friends. He returned to Afghanistan in 2000. He made another trip in 2001 but never made it into Afghanistan because of the events on September 11, 2001. On his 2000 trip, Ujaama traveled with Feroz Abbasi who was held at Guantanamo Bay, seen in a photo[3] kneeling with goggles and a mask on in an orange suit.[4] Abbasi was among the first detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Although Ujaama was charged with two counts of Material Support charges in connection to traveling with Feroz Abbasi, a UK Court of Appeals released Abbasi and all charges were dropped.[5] Abbasi was also charged in a military tribunal, then released to return home to the UK, maintaining his innocence. He has always stated that the Afghans who turned him over to US authorities had lied in their claim that he was found strapped with explosives and had trained at a terrorist camp to be a suicide bomber.[6] After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Policy Studies, Abbasi began working as a case worker at Cage Prisoners, "an independent advocacy organization working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror."[7] He continues to give interviews and work at Cage Prisoners.

Ujaama was first arrested in Denver on July 22, 2002, as a material witness. He was transferred to a hospital in Virginia around July 29, and held there with restricted access to family or counsel until an indictment for providing material resources to al-Qaeda was returned against him in Seattle. These charges included attempting to create a "Jihad" camp for training Muslims near Bly, Oregon, between October and December 1999.[8]

In April 2003, the government dropped those charges and filed a complaint accusing Ujaama of providing money and computer equipment to Taliban officials in Afghanistan. In February of the following year, Ujaama pleaded guilty in a plea bargain: in return for a two-year sentence, he would tell the government about all of his activities and repeat such at a grand jury hearing. In addition, his agreement specified that he would appear at the future trial of Abu Hamz al-Masri, whose Web site Ujaama once ran, to tell the truth about his activities in connection with the charges in which he pleaded guilty.

Federal officials have said Ujaama's help was useful in the 2004 indictment of al-Masri on charges of trying to establish the training camp in Bly so that Muslims could then travel or make hijrah (migration for religious purpose) to Afghanistan and be prepared to live there permanently. Ujaama's vision for this camp was to permanently migrate to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.[9] In December 2006, Ujaama was once again arrested in Belize after violating probation and the terms of his plea agreement by leaving the country without permission, which mandated that he remain in the United States.[10] He was in possession of a counterfeit Mexican passport at the time of his apprehension.[9] He was returned to Seattle where he apologized to the court and accepted a two-year sentence for the violation.

On August 13, 2007, Ujaama pleaded guilty to four counts in New York: two counts of Material Support in connection with traveling with Abbasi in 2000, one count of Material Support for conspiring to establish a "Jihad" training camp at Bly, Oregon in 1999, and one count of leaving the country to avoid testimony (Unlawful Flight to Avoid Testimony) in December 2006.[11]

In 2009, during the trial of Oussama Kassir, Ujaama's promise to help the British men set up a jihad training camp in Oregon was described as a "petty hustle".[2] Kassir, and Haroon Rashid Aswat were two British man who were to be the camp's trainers were disappointed with the facilities Ujaama had provided at the Dog Cry Ranch. According to the Komo News Kassir was "enraged" because "He expected to be welcomed by Muslim recruits, eager to learn the ways of war."

Ujaama attended the property along with nearly a dozen others, including Semi Osman, a "mechanic and part time imam" from Seattle. Semi Osman provided testimony to a grand jury about Ujaama, Abu Hamza and others.[12] No one was charged in connection to the Bly property and the training camp other than Ujaama, the two men from London, and al-Masri. All of the men in attendance brought their own firearms and shot at targets. However, no target shooting took place on the property when Kassir and Aswat visited. Ujaama left the property with the two men from London staying and never returned. Ujaama assumed full responsibility for the camp and told authorities that none of the other members of his group knew about his idea. He later traveled to London to raise his family and continue his vision for a permanent home in Afghanistan under the religious laws of Islam - Sharia.

After serving his sentence, and an additional two years, Ujaama was released. He returned to the University of Washington, earning a Professional Certificate in Rapid Web Development (specializing in Drupal and Wordpress). In 2013, Ujaama graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Near Eastern Studies. He also minored in Human Rights and Diversity and is currently pursuing a master's degree in education. He is reportedly writing a book.


  1. ^ "Earnest James Ujaama Sentenced For Conspiring to Supply Goods and Services to the Taliban". Department of Justice. 
  2. ^ a b . "Trial record provides account of Oregon jihad camp". Komo News. 2009-10-18. Retrieved 2016-07-21. In late 1999, Ujaama made a pitch to a London imam, Abu Hamza al-Masri. He promised al-Masri a safe haven, recruits and weapons to transform the desert ranch into a Muslim military training camp, court records said.  mirror
  3. ^ "Naming the names of 'Camp Delta' prisoners". FOIA Centre News. 
  4. ^ Columbia University. "The Rule of Law Oral History Project: Feroz Ali Abassi". YouTube Video: Columbia University. 
  5. ^ "Guantánamo Bay files: Profiles of the 10 released British prisoners". The Guardian UK. 
  6. ^ "The Rule of Law Oral History Project: Feroz Ali Abassi". YouTube Video: Columbia University. 
  7. ^ "Cage Prisoners". Cage Prisoners. 
  8. ^ United States of America V. Earnest James Ujaama. http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/usujaama82802ind.pdf
  9. ^ a b Mercury News coverage of James Ujaama
  10. ^ Ujaama arrested in Belize for violating parole
  11. ^ "Ujaama pleads guilty to terror camp charges"
  12. ^ Carter, Mike. "Terror-camp conspirator still in limbo". Seattle Times. 

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