UN removes Saudi dissident from blacklist

Ombudsman has Saudi professor Saad Rashed Mohammed al-Faqih delisted despite US opposition.

    Saad Rashed Mohammed has been a leading opposition figure to Saudi Arabia's ruling monarchy [AP]
    Saad Rashed Mohammed has been a leading opposition figure to Saudi Arabia's ruling monarchy [AP]

    The UN Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaeda has removed a London-based Saudi dissident from its blacklist.

    Peter Wittig, the committee chairman and also Germany's UN ambassador, said the committee de-listed Saad Rashed Mohammed al-Faqih and the Movement for Reform in Arabia (Mira), which he leads. Al-Faqih was removed after the committee failed to override a decision by the blacklist's ombudsman to remove him.

    "The key question the Committee has to consider is whether there is sufficient information to provide a reasonable and credible basis for concluding that an individual, group, undertaking, or entity is associated with al-Qaeda," Wittig said in a statement on Monday.

    Al-Faqih, according to his website, was a professor of surgery at King Saud University in Riyadh until he was briefly jailed for opposition activities and left in 1993 for Britain. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The professor was jailed for his heavy involvement in the country's reform movement. On his release from prison, he became director of the London office of the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), then the leading Saudi opposition group before forming Mira in 1996.

    US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that while the UK supported delisting al-Faqih, the US opposed it.

    The UN decision "doesn't change the fact that US sanctions on him have been maintained," she said. "And today's action has no effect on the way we deal with him."

    The UN blacklisted al-Faqih soon after the US treasury department did in December 2004. The treasury department alleged that al-Faqih had "maintained associations with the al-Qaeda network since the mid-1990s."

    In December 2009, the Security Council established an independent ombudsman to deal with requests to get off the blacklist, gather information and report to the sanctions committee.

    A resolution adopted last year strengthened the role of the ombudsman, presently Canadian lawyer Kimberly Prost.

    If the ombudsman recommends delisting, the resolution says the individual or entity will be taken off the sanctions list in 60 days unless the sanctions committee agrees by consensus to maintain sanctions.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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