The Associated Press is reporting that the German government has banned the German International Humanitarian Relief Organization (IHH) for financing Hamas. According to the report, although the group has the same name as the Turkish IHH involved in the Gaza flotilla, the two groups split in 1997:
(AP) — BERLIN – Germany has banned an organization it accuses of financing the Islamic militant group Hamas, the interior ministry said Monday. The Frankfurt-based International Humanitarian Relief Organization (IHH) is believed to have collected money in mosques and to have sent about ?6.6 million ($8.3 million) to relief organizations belonging to or supporting Hamas, which Germany considers a terrorist organization, the ministry said. “Under the cover of humanitarian aid, the IHH has been supporting for a long time and with considerable financial resources so-called social groups which have to be seen as connected to Hamas,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. “It exploits trusting donors’ willingness to help by using money that was given for a good purpose for supporting what is, in the final analysis, a terrorist organization,” de Maiziere said. Hamas, which runs Gaza, doesn’t recognize Israel. Organizations that work directly or indirectly against Israel’s right to exist lose the right to be active in Germany, de Maiziere said. The International Humanitarian Relief Organization could not be reached for comment, and its web pages were shut down in the course of the day. The organization was founded in 1992 in Freiburg, Germany, the ministry said. In 1997 the group split in two, IHH Germany and IHH Turkey, which are now two separate entities, it said. IHH Turkey was recently involved in organizing a pro-Palestinian flotilla meant to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The flotilla was stopped by Israeli military May 31. Eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed in the raid. German authorities have been investigating the International Humanitarian Relief Organization in Frankfurt for a year, the ministry said. On Monday, authorities raided 29 places throughout the country and confiscated files, data, and real estate belonging to the organization. The main figures in IHH Germany are also active in the Islamic group Milli Gorus, which has been under observation by German authorities, the ministry said. The money the International Humanitarian Relief Organization sent to six groups connected to Hamas was collected in Milli Gorus mosques with donors not necessarily knowing where their contributions went, it said. According to a 2004 German high court decision it is irrelevant whether the money was used for charity or otherwise because Hamas works as an entity and giving money to any branch will bolster the group’s terrorist activities, the ministry said. While IHH has been active in Germany for a long time, authorities started investigating it only after being tipped off by a bank that it suspected money laundering. Though the organization is now illegal in Germany, its staff face no immediate criminal charges unless they continue the group’s activities or regroup, the ministry said.
In Germany, the Milli Gorus organization is closely linked to the German Muslim Brotherhood, headed by the former leader of the of the Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland (IGD) which is generally considered to be the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany. Mr. El-Zayat is also a leader in many European Muslim Brotherhood organizations and is married to the sister of Mehmet Sabri Erbakan who is in turn the nephew of Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of Turkish Milli Görüs. Mr. El-Zayat is highly active in managing Milli Gorus properties in Germany and in Holland where a mosque project he was involved with has become embroiled in controversy. He was also formerly the Western European head of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi youth organization that U.S. government agencies and officials have has helped spread Islamic extremism around the world as well as sponsoring terrorism in places such as Bosnia, Israel, and India. A German newspaper has reported on the real-estate business of Ibrahim El-Zayat, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany. The report discusses Zayat’s role as the signatory authority for an entity called European Mosque Construction and Support. In this capacity, he advises more than 600 mosques in Europe, providing project development, insurance, and other services. The report states that he is currently involved with over 50 new and renovated mosque projects. Zayat also provides investment services for wealth Arab investors in the MIddle East who wish to invest “Islamically” in Europe.
Previous posts have discussed the ongoing German law enforcement investigation, in which El-Zayat is one of a group of individuals tied to the IGD suspected of forming a criminal association and intending to commit a crime by obtaining funds for its “politico-religious and ultimately Islamist goals. One of the other defendants in the case is Oguz ÜCÜNCÜ, the General-Secretary of Milli Gorus in Germany and a business partner of Mr. El-Zayat.