Questions if U.S. has evidenceSana’a stands by Al-Zindani [Archives:2004/718/Front Page]

March 8 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The Yemeni government announced that it has stayed clear of becoming involved in the case in which the US government accused Sheik Abdumajeed Al-Zindani of supporting terrorists.
Sultan Al-Barakani, Chairman of the GPC Caucus, told The Yemen Times that the US government has not sent any information to the Yemeni government, and he stressed that the local government has not seen any evidence against Al-Zindani.
“The government is dealing with Sheik Zindani as a Yemeni citizen,” said Al-Barakani.
“We have not received anything from the US government, and we don't have any evidence that Sheik Zindani was involved with Al-Qaeda until now. Up to this time, it has not been a serious issue. The Yemeni government cares about the security of the Yemeni people, and he is one of them.”
Late last month, the US Treasury Department added Al-Zindani to its list of people suspected of supporting terrorist activities. The allegation claims that Al-Zindani worked with Osama bin Laden, was involved in recruiting operatives for Al-Qaeda and dealt with the purchase of weapons for Al-Qaeda and other terrorists.
Al-Zindani, Chairman of the Shura Council in the Islah (Reform) party, founder of Al-Imam University and once a part of the presidential council, denied the allegations of being connected to supporting terrorists in a press statement released a little over a week ago.
Al-Barakani said that if evidence against Al-Zindani surfaces, the Yemeni government will step in.
“If there is clear evidence, the government and the legal system in Yemen will take care of it,” said Al-Barakani. “He will be arrested and will be taken to court.”
According to Abdul Wahab Al-Ansi, Deputy Chairman of Islah, the Islah party is holding a similar position.
“Does the United States have proof that supports the accusations? If it does have proof, it should give it to the Yemeni government,” said Ansi. “The case can then go to Yemeni court.”
Al-Zindani is the third prominent member of the Islah party that has been accused by the US government of having links with terrorist organizations. Last year, Sheik Mohammed Al-Mouyad was arrested in Germany and extradited to the United States after being accused of collecting over $20 million for Al-Qaeda. Recently, Sheik Abdullah Sa'atar was also accused by the US government of raising money for terrorist operations.
Al-Ansi said that the accusations against party members have not weakened Islah's political position in Yemen.
“If anyone is proven guilty, including Al-Zindani, it will not affect the strength of the Islah party,” said Al-Ansi. “We have strong departments and Islah is a strong party. After Watergate in the United States, for example, the Republican party was not affected. After the Monica and Clinton case, the Democrats remained strong. If there are people guilty of working with Al-Qaeda, they don't belong to the Islah party.”
Some worry that if Al-Zindani is extradited to the United States or taken to court in Yemen, there will be a strong, possibly violent, reaction in Yemen.
“If Al-Zindani is shipped off to the United States, there will be repercussions,” said a political analyst. “He is a prominent spiritual leader and has a large following. There is also a chance that if someone in such a high position in Yemen is taken by the United States, the Yemeni people will have had enough. They may be thinking that this could be a way for the West to control their own country.”
Al-Ansi believes that if there is proof against Al-Zindani, social unrest in Yemen will be minimal. But if proof is not given, there could be negative consequences.
“Being sensitive of accusing a religious leader is not an issue in Islam,” said Al-Ansi. “But accusing him without proof can generate more hate toward America. If he is guilty, it will make no difference if he goes to a Yemeni or a US court.”
Some believe that accusations against Al-Zindani may be used for political maneuvering within the government.
According to one government official, “Sheik Al-Zindani has power and might be considered an obstacle to the interests of some in both the ruling and the Islah party. It might not bother them if he is moved out of the political arena.”