Ujaama known as community activist in Seattle


SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- Earnest James Ujaama, indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of trying to set up an al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Oregon, is known in Seattle, Washington, for his work with the poor and the promotion of entrepreneurship.

Ujaama, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen whose birth name is James Earnest Thompson, has written at least three books on how to succeed in business. On June 10, 1994, then-state Rep. Jesse Wineberry issued a certificate declaring James Ujaama Day in the state of Washington, according to The Seattle Times newspaper.

Ujaama converted to Islam in the post-civil rights era, a family friend says.

Ujaama has attended several mosques that have been investigated to determine whether some attendees were part of an al Qaeda cell operating in the United States, according to a law enforcement source. He has lived in both Seattle and London in recent years.

Sources describe Ujaama as a "smaller fish" caught in a larger investigation of Sheikh Abu Hamza, a radical British cleric who has praised the September 11 terror attacks. Investigators believe Hamza is actually a senior al Qaeda recruiter, an allegation he denies.

While in London on one trip, Ujaama visited the Finsbury Mosque, where Hamza preaches, officials have said. Zacarias Moussaoui -- the only person facing a public U.S. trial in connection with the September 11 attacks -- and Richard Reid, who is accused of trying to blow up a flight with explosives in his shoes, also have visited the mosque.

Ujaama also traveled to Afghanistan in 1999 to study Islamic code, according to family friends.

Earlier this month, his brother, Mustafa Ujaama, said his brother's travels should not raise suspicions, and that it was "completely, completely impossible" he has ties to terrorism.

Friends and family have spoken out against Ujaama's indictment.

"This is a big shock," his mother, Peggi Thompson, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. "I thought things would be dismissed in his favor."

A family spokeswoman was critical of the handling of the case, claiming Ujaama has been held secretly and indefinitely as a material witness.

"James had been more than happy to cooperate with a grand jury," family spokeswoman Leila McDowell told CNN. "He had said he would be happy to testify and give any information that he might know that might be relevant."



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