Faisal Kutty defended WAMY as a “very respected organization”; people “would be shocked” to hear allegations linking it with terrorism, he added
Author: Rick Mofina and Jim Bronskill
Source: Standard / St. Catharines, October 11, 2001, p. B6
Original title: Questions surround suspected Canadian links to terrorism: ‘I think there’s a lot of shoddy intelligence work here’
OTTAWA – A number of humanitarian groups with alleged links to terrorist Osama bin Laden have a presence in Canada — but the evidence in these cases remained unclear Wednesday as investigators continued probing organizations around the world.
Hundreds of names on lists published by the United Nations, the United States and Canada have emerged in the effort to track down and freeze the assets of parties connected to bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, the prime suspect in the September attacks against the U.S.
Ahmad Sa’id Al-Kadr, who apparently has Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, appears on a list of suspected bin Laden associates whose assets have been frozen by the Canadian government pursuant to a United Nations resolution.
In addition, two humanitarian organizations with Canadian chapters — the International Islamic Relief Organization and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth — are reportedly being considered for inclusion on an updated U.S. Treasury Department list of groups accused of funding political violence.
The Canadian list describes Al-Kadr, also known as Abu Abd Al- Rahman Al-Kanadi (Arabic for “the Canadian”), as a 53-year-old born in Cairo “thought to be an Egyptian and Canadian national.”
It is believed the list is referring to Ahmed Said Khadr, arrested in Pakistan in 1995 for his suspected role in a bombing that killed 17 people. At the time, he was serving as a regional director of Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based Muslim charity.
He was eventually released, though the Canadian International Development Agency subsequently suspended funding of HCI-sponsored projects.
Prior to the incident in Pakistan, articles appeared in the European press linking an organization variously named HCI or HIC to global terrorist activities. However, the Ottawa HCI has steadfastly denied links to terrorism.
News reports allege the International Islamic Relief Organization, an aid agency based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has funded the Abu Sayyaf — a group tied to bin Laden based in the Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf is named as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, as well as the UN in its suppression of terrorism regulations.
The IIRO was raised in the recent Federal Court case of Mahmoud Jaballah, a Toronto teacher accused of ties to the suspects behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
During court proceedings, Arafat El-Asahi, who described his role as Canadian director of the IIRO, testified the organization had offices around the world including a chapter in Toronto.
A federal lawyer pressed El-Asahi on suspicions held by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about the IIRO.
“So when CSIS says that Osama bin Laden is connected to your organization’s offices in Pakistan, what do you say to CSIS?”
“I am afraid this is inaccurate. This is absolutely not correct,” El-Asahi responded, adding that such suggestions were “an offence to the IIRO. It is absolutely unfounded.”
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a Pakistani diplomat revealed his government expelled 89 workers affiliated with various groups including the IIRO and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth at the urging of U.S. officials.
The assembly, known WAMY, has an Ontario-based chapter but is not involved in terrorism, said Faisal Kutty, a Toronto lawyer for the group.
“I think it’s just speculation in the media. I haven’t heard anything,” he said Wednesday in an interview.
“It seems like any kind of organization that seems to be doing any charitable work in certain parts of the world or has connections with Arab communities is just popping up on the list.”
Kutty said WAMY is a “very respected organization” and people “would be shocked” to hear allegations linking it with terrorism.
“I think there’s a lot of shoddy intelligence work here if these are the names they’re coming up with.”