Treasury action smacks of arrogance, violates human rights, says Al-Qadi

By Muhammad Samman, Arab News Staff
Publication Date: 
Sun, 2001-10-14 03:00

JEDDAH, 14 October — Saudi businessman Yassin Abdullah Al-Qadi, who was listed by the FBI among the individuals allegedly linked to the Al-Qaeda organization, said the inclusion of his name in the list without any evidence was tantamount to human rights violation.

“I don’t have any connection, be it close or distant, with Al-Qaeda or its leader Bin Laden, either directly or indirectly,” Al-Qadi told Asharq Al-Awsat, sister publication of Arab News, in an exclusive interview.

“I was shocked when my lawyers in Britain informed me that my name was in the list of people and groups targeted in asset freeze,” he said. “I was amazed that my name was included without any reason or evidence. What compounded the issue was that they did not deem it necessary to ask for any explanation. I don’t have anything to hide,” he added.

Al-Qadi reiterated his condemnation of terrorism. “Our religion Islam does not accept the killing of innocent people, whatever may be their nationality or religion,” he said talking to the daily from his office at Al-Farsi Tower in Jeddah.

The FBI distributed the new list of 39 individuals and groups on Thursday, seeking a freeze of their assets. However, Al-Qadi confirmed that his assets in the United States and the Kingdom had not been frozen. “They have not informed me about their plans to freeze my assets,” he added.

According to the US Treasury Department, Al-Qadi’s name was put on the list for running a charity named Mowafek Charitable Foundation which it said had allegedly funneled millions to Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Meanwhile, informed sources in Washington said the US Department of State had strongly objected to the publishing of the list, fearing that it would negatively impact on US efforts to build an international coalition against terrorism.

Al-Qadi said he believed that his name was included because of his position as a founding member of the foundation, which was closed down six years ago. “This organization has carried out a number of charitable activities in Bosnia, especially educational and humanitarian projects,” he said.

“The foundation was closed six years ago. But they think that it is still continuing its activities. All records related to the organization are available and I welcome any questions with regard to its activities. This they should have done before pointing an accusing finger at me,” he added.

Al-Qadi described the move by the US authorities to incriminate innocent people and groups “as an attack” on all Islamic organizations including the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Muslim World League.

“I would like to tell the American authorities that they have to distinguish between their enemies and friends. They should not make new enemies. Most Muslims, especially Saudis, are not enemies of Americans. We have very good relations with them,” he said. He called the American policy of leveling accusations against innocent people as “a gross mistake.” By such actions, he said, America would lose its friends in the Middle East.

Al-Qadi said he had not received any official notice from the US or British authorities. “They have not asked me anything not asked me to attend any investigation. They should have probed my activities thoroughly before including my name in the list. This is nothing but arrogance on the part of the US authorities and a gross violation of human rights. An accused is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty,” he explained.

Asked whether his assets would be frozen, he said: “The list was published on Thursday and I am not in a position to make any judgment. Maybe this is a media stunt. My financial dealings and transfers to the US and Europe over the past two days were carried out as usual.”

Asked what would be his position if his assets inside and outside Saudi Arabia were frozen, he said: “I am a strong believer in God and I believe that we will get only what God has destined for us.”

However, he said he would take all measures to defend himself and clear his name. “I will seek justice and produce evidence. Nobody should be punished for the mistake of others. I am also prepared to take wahtever action is necessary to clear name.

Al-Qadi described the allegations against him as mere fabrication. “Unfortunately, they have started accusing people randomly without any reason,” he added.

Referring to the Mowafek Foundation, he said it was an organization registered in Britain to assist Bosnian Muslims. Six Saudi businessmen were its founder members.

Asked why they included only his name, he said: “I don’t know. Maybe they will include the other names too. I think that my name was listed because I was the contact person and top official of the organization.”

Mowafek Foundation was earlier linked to a plot to kill an Arab leader during the latter’s visit to an African country. “Six years ago, a British newspaper published a report saying that an employee of the foundation was a suspect in the assassination attempt. We filed a lawsuit against the paper and won the legal battle. The foundation’s name was cleared and the paper issued a public apology. With the court finding for us, the paper was ordered to pay costs and damages.”

He said he was a member of several charitable organizations including the International Qur’an Society of the Muslim World League. He is also the secretary-general of the Dar Al-Hekma College in Jeddah.

“Even before the Sept. 11 attacks it was not possible to donate millions of riyals to charities abroad except through banks,” he said, adding that Mowafek had always sent its funds to Bosnia through legal channels.

Al-Qadi’s activities are now centered on Dar Al-Hekma. He is also a partner in the group running the Al-Andalus Schools and Ala Productions. “I was also associated with the National Commercial Bank to develop a number of Islamic banking programs like investment portfolios. I also own companies in various sectors,” he added.

Al-Qadi has worked for Skidmore, an American consulting firm in Chicago, for three years. “I have also met with US Vice President and former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in Jeddah when he came for a lecture organized by the Dallah Group. “I spoke to him for a long time and we still have cordial relations.”

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