Foreign Legal Challenges to "Terrorist" Designation Prove Successful

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Date: 
April 9, 2009

On Feb. 17, 2009 a Swedish court in Malmo acquitted the head of a charity of charges that he financed terrorism through a charitable group. Khalid al-Yousef, the leader of al-Aqsa Spannmal (Grain Foundation), faced a six year jail sentence if convicted. It has also been reported that $150,000 in donations raised by the charity which had been frozen by the United States and Britain will be returned.

The prosecution alleged al-Yousef's charity, the Swedish branch of al-Aqsa Foundation, was contributing to Hamas related activities. The U.S. claimed in 2003 al-Aqsa Foundation to be a terrorist organization and has been labeled as such by the European Union. According to a-Yousef, al- Aqsa Spannmal collects donations to be sent to children living in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Swedish Court discredited much of the evidence the prosecution presented as having "very low" value, being based on newspaper articles, television reports, book excerpts and websites. The Court also expressed that the "terrorist" designations by Israel of groups the al-Aqsa Spannmal had sent money to held no importance.

The charges led to over $150,000 worth of donations collected by the group frozen by the United States and Britain. According to SR International, the acquittal should begin the process of freeing up the money. This would be an unprecedented release of frozen funds in similar cases. The lawyer for al-Yousef said, "Now the work of sending money to children can continue."

In the U.S., a Saudi businessman filed a lawsuit on Jan. 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C. district court seeking to have his name removed from a U.S. government watch list of al-Qaida financiers. al-Qadi denies any involvement in financing any terrorist organization.

"The lawsuit was filed after several unsuccessful attempts to have this issue resolved with the U.S. government," al-Qadi said during a phone interview with the AP. "We discovered that the government had no intention to remove my name from the list."

Designated as a “terrorist” on Oct.12, 2001, under President Bush's Executive Order 13224, al-Qadi has had several countries and the U.N. freeze his assets and money. He has been presenting his case successfully in courts across Europe and in Sept. 2008, he won an appeal in front of the Court of Justice, the EU's highest court.

Al-Qadi is "very optimistic" about winning his lawsuit in Washington. "The reason for my optimism is that we have won every case we have filed around the world," he said. "That means our case is solid."