Expatica news

Saudis warned Dutch about ‘terror’ charity

4 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the Netherlands has claimed he warned the Dutch government 12 months ago that a Muslim charity in Amsterdam had links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. But the al-Haramain charity continues to operate legally in the Netherlands.

Ambassador Waleed el Khereiji told newspaper Trouw on Friday he had informed the then Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that the Saudi authorities had banned all of al-Haramain’s overseas activities.

But because al-Haramain’s office in Amsterdam was a registered charitable foundation in the Netherlands, the Saudi authorities could not shut it down.

“I said: ‘It is up to your authorities to deal with it under the appropriate Dutch laws’,” El Khereiji said.

His remarks are potentially very embarrassing for the Netherlands.

The US and Saudi authorities announced a joint action on Wednesday against several organisations suspected of funding Islamic terrorists. Al-Haramain — which is active in the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh and Ethiopia — was one of the organisations on the blacklist.

This prompted Dutch MPs to call on the government on Thursday to explain why it had not moved against al-Haramain at a much earlier stage.

Al-Haramain allegedly provided some of the funding to establish the controversial El Tawheed mosque in Amsterdam.

Nevertheless, the charity and the mosque share a postal address and one of the mosque’s imams, El Shershaby, is said to be on the al-Haramain board.

He has been accused of preaching anti-western doctrines and on one occasion suggesting non-Muslims will burn in hell.

A spokesman for the mosque said on Thursday the founder of the charity had given assurances it did not have links to terrorism.

But local Amsterdam television station AT5 reported on Thursday evening that the El Tawheed mosque is breaking its ties with al-Haramain. Also, the al-Haramain director in Amsterdam is resigning from the board of the mosque.
The mosque has been the centre of controversy recently. MPs called earlier this year for the mosque to be banned when it emerged it sells books supporting female circumcision and husbands beating their wives.

But the impression was given by officialdom that there were no grounds on which to close the mosque.

Meanwhile, also potentially damaging for the image of the Netherlands is the suggestion that the Saudi warning about the al-Haramain charity was given to De Hoop Scheffer, who left the Dutch government at the end of 2003 to become Nato Secretary-General.

One of De Hoop Scheffer’s main tasks at the moment is to get Nato member states to provide troops and material to battle the Taleban and al-Qaeda forces trying to destabilise Afghanistan.

During his interview with Trouw, the Saudi ambassador said dealing with al-Haramain’s activities in the Netherlands was up to the Dutch government.

Without waiting to be asked by the interviewer, Ambassador El Khereiji said: “I want to emphasise one thing. More than a year ago I informed the Dutch Foreign Minister (De Hoop Scheffer) that Saudi Arabia had banned all foreign activities by charitable organisation al-Haramain”.

El Khereiji claimed he told the Dutch minister it was up to the Netherlands to act because al-Haramain’s Amsterdam office was registered in the Netherlands as a non-profit organisation, or stichting.

The ambassador said he told De Hoop Scheffer it was a matter for the Dutch authorities to deal with the charity.

El Khereiji also said the Netherlands was informed about the joint current US-Saudi crackdown shortly before the announcement of the blacklist was made. The assets of the organisations named are now being frozen.

There is no doubt, El Khereiji told Trouw, that al-Haramain has direct links with Bin Laden’s terror network. The Netherlands recognised 2.5 years ago that al-Haramain funds were going to Muslim extremists and used for violence, but the Dutch government did not take any steps against the charity.

The Saudis also announced on Wednesday the abolition of private charities that send money overseas and the establishment of a new regulatory body which will take charge of disseminating all international charitable donations from Saudi Arabia.

“Giving to others is part of our faith, but we have to ensure all money goes to the needy,” El Khereiji said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + Islam