A former spokesman for leading Islamic lobby groups opposed to U.S. counterterrorism efforts was among 11 men indicted for conspiring to train on American soil for a “violent jihad.”
Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer – who little more than five weeks ago was communications director for a fund-raising effort sponsored by the American Muslim Council – allegedly trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Kashmiri terrorist group with reported ties to al-Qaida.
Royer, 30, of Falls Church, Va., also was on the national staff of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that considers itself a leading civil rights voice for American Muslims.
Most recently, he was a spokesman for the National Liberty Fund, which is defending Sami al-Arian, the Florida professor in federal custody as an alleged leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.
The National Liberty Fund says it is combating the Justice Department’s “opportunistic and politically motivated prosecutions.”
The federal indictment, issued June 27, contends Royer traveled to Pakistan, engaged in propaganda work for Lashkar-e-Taiba and “fired at Indian positions in Kashmir.” The charges also allege in September 2001, he “possessed in his automobile an AK-47-style rifle and 219 rounds of ammunition.”
“A legal support structure for the terrorist front network in America is emerging,” the Center for Security Policy asserts, noting Royer’s defense lawyer, Stanley Cohen, also is an attorney for the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.
CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association For Palestine, identified as a “front group” for Hamas, according to Steve Pomerantz, former chief of the FBI’s counterterrorism section.
Another ex-FBI counterterrorism chief, Oliver “Buck” Revell, has called the Islamic Association For Palestine “a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants.”
In addition, Cohen’s law partner, Lynne Stewart, is awaiting trial on federal charges that she served as a courier for Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheik” convicted of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
The center points out the Muslim groups for which Royer worked have pushed to repeal a law allowing terrorism-hunters to use classified information in the process of prosecuting and deporting foreign terror suspects.
Royer characterized the allegations against him as baseless during an interview with the Washington Post. He dismissed the discovery of pistols and rifles inside the homes of some group members as insignificant.
“Ooooh, gosh, they have weapons,” Royer said. “I really resent the idea that a Muslim with a gun – he’s a threat. A Jew with a gun – he’s not a threat.”
In a brief description of Royer on Islam Online, he was identified as a communications specialist for CAIR, where he had worked in “research and civil rights since 1997.”
The site said he formerly wrote investigative pieces on “anti-Muslim organizations” for an online newssite called iviews.com, where he served as Washington bureau chief. Islam Online said he wrote a story designated one of the “Most Censored Press Releases of 1999” by Timothy McSweeney’s, a literary journal.
In a weblog Royer ran, dated Sept. 17, 2002, he called Pipes a “pop bigot” and responded to the scholar’s New York Post article about militant Islamic influence on American campuses with the following comment: “[Pipes] has served up another steaming shovelful of fertilizer. What a joy it is to read this guy. His stuff requires no real effort to deconstruct, no deliberate propaganda analysis to realize how he intends to deceive the reader.”
Royer is the second CAIR figure to be arrested this year. Bassem Khafagi was the group’s director of community relations before his arrest in January. Also, Siraj Wahhaj, a member of CAIR’s advisory board, was named as one of the “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments in the early 1990s.
‘Danger to community’?
Yesterday, a federal judge said she is inclined to free Royer while he awaits his November trial but delayed her decision to learn more about the case, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors argue Royer is a danger to the community because of connections between Lashkar and al-Qaida and should be held until his trial. Last week, however, a magistrate judge ordered his release, prompting prosecutors to appeal the decision yesterday to U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg pointed out the spiritual leader of the Virginia network, Ali al-Timimi, called the United States the greatest enemy of Islam.
Royer’s lawyer Cohen insists no evidence exists to show Royer had any hostile intent toward the United States.
He argues Royer’s writings and statements as spokesman for various Islamic groups denounce al-Qaida and violence against the United States.
“The government keeps talking about al-Qaida,” Cohen said, according to the AP. “They’ve been looking at [Royer] for at least a year and there’s not a connection there.”
Cohen acknowledged Royer fought in Bosnia with Muslim groups in the mid-1990s, but argued it was not illegal to do so.
Eight of the 11 men charged have been arrested. All have pleaded innocent.