Swedish media has reported that a local court has acquitted the head of the al-Aqsa Foundation in Sweden on charges of funding terrorism. According to the report:
A Malmö court has acquitted the head of the al-Aqsa Foundation in Sweden on charges that he used funds from the charity to support Hamas. “This is good. Now the work of sending money to children can continue,” said defence attorney Laue Traberg Smidt to the TT news agency. Khalid al-Yousef had been charged with violated terror financing laws, with an alternative charge of violated sanctions laws. As head of al-Aqsa Spannmål, the Swedish branch of the al-Aqsa Foundation, al-Yousef oversaw the collection of donations for Palestinian children suffering in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to the indictment, however, money ended up at organizations with ties to Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union (EU). Deputy chief prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström wanted al-Yousef to be sent to prison, claiming that Hamas was strengthened as a result of the charity’s activities. During the trial she attempted to prove that the organizations which receive funding from al-Aqsa Spannmål were tied to Hamas. Al-Yousef had collected more than 4 million kronor ($460,000) through the foundation, with about half of the proceeds supporting activities in the West Bank and Gaza, while other parts of his fund were frozen by authorities in the United States and Britain. Traberg Smidt is especially please with the court’s reasons for the acquittal. In its ruling, the Malmö District Court stated that Hamas and Israel have a relationship to one another akin to a state of war. That Israel has declared illegal a number of organizations to which al-Yousef’s foundation sent money holds no importance, according to the court. The court also considered the many newspaper articles, television reports, book excerpts and websites presented by the prosecutor as having “very low” value as evidence.
Al-Aqsa Sweden is a member of the Union of Good, described in a NEFA Foundation report as follows:
The Union of Good is a coalition of Islamic charities that provides financial support to both the Hamas “social” infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. It is headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, and most of the trustees and member organizations are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood. The Union of Good was banned by Israel in 2002 and was recently designated a terrorist entity by the United States, although neither Youssef Qaradawi nor any of the Trustees were similarly designated. Despite the fact that action has been taken against some of its member organizations in Europe, many of its other European member organizations continue to operate. Further, the Union of Good itself does not appear to be under investigation in Europe.
All branches of Al-Aqsa are designated by the U.S. as terrorist entities and the Union of Good was also recently designated.
A post from February 2008 discussed the acquittal by a local court of the leaders Al-Aqsa Denmark on similar charges. The Swedish and Danish prosecutions followed earlier actions by Germany and the Netherlands. According to another NEFA report:
In August 2002, the German government shut down Al-Aqsa in Germany, seizing money and documents during searches of the group’s offices. The German Interior MInister said at that time that Al-Aqsa raised money for suicide bombers and their families in Israel, and that it transferred funds to social and humanitarian organizations in the Palestinian territories that were connected to Hamas. German authorities reported telephone calls in which a Hamas “cadre” was requesting assistance from Mahmoud Amr following suicide bombings in Israel, as well as “numerous contacts” between Mr. Amr and presumed Hamas functionaries…..On April 9, 2003, the Ministry of Interior announced a freeze on all financial activities and assets of Al-Aqsa Netherlands stating that the organization was collecting money for Hamas and/or organizations related to Hamas that support or develop terrorist activities.
In April 2008, an EU court overturned the Dutch decision because Al-Aqsa was not informed why their assets were frozen.
INTERPAL, the important U.K. Union of Good member, was just subject to the most stringent action to date by the U.K. Charity Commission who was ordered to sever its relationship with the Union. As a previous post discussed, the Commission failed to take even stronger action on grounds that it was unable verify the evidence detailing links between INTERPAL partner organizations and Hamas.