UN confirms Saudi dissident off Al Qaida list

Al Faqih cites laborious battle to get off blacklist

11:13 July 3, 2012

United Nations: A UN Security Council committee has removed Saudi dissident Sa’ad Al Faqih and his Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA) from the UN Al Qaida sanctions list, Germany’s UN envoy confirmed on Monday.

Reuters reported on Sunday that the decision to de-list Al Faqih came after the 15-nation council’s Al Qaida sanctions committee failed to reach a consensus to override the Al Qaida-sanctions-list ombudsman, who had recommended removing Al Faqih from the UN blacklist.

“After thorough consideration by the Committee the entries in the Al Qaida Sanctions List related to Mr. Sa’ad Rashid Mohammad Al Faqih and [his group] were removed from the Al Qaida Sanctions List today,” German UN Ambassador Peter Wittig said in a statement.

“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 Qaida,” said Wittig, who chairs the Al Qaida sanctions committee.

A UN diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Al Faqih “may not be a saint but he doesn’t belong on this list”.

Al Faqih’s and his group’s removal from the list took effect at midnight (0400 GMT) on Monday, diplomats said.

Al Faqih told Reuters in London it had been “a laborious battle” to get him off the list.

Formerly a professor of medicine at a Saudi university, the exiled dissident has long insisted that he and his group are committed to peace. Al Faqih is an outspoken critic of the Saudi leadership.

Prior to Al Faqih’s de-listing, there were 252 individuals and 69 entities or groups on the UN Al Qaida sanctions list, including Al Faqih. All individuals on the list are subject to asset freezes and an international travel ban.

Britain, Al Faqih’s current host, was one of only four council members that supported the recommendation of the Al Qaida sanctions committee ombudsman, Kimberly Prost of Canada, that Al Faqih be taken off the blacklist, despite strong objections from Riyadh, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Council diplomats said the United States was among the 11 council members that supported the Saudis and opposed taking Al Faqih off the blacklist. A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s UN mission did not respond to a request for comment.

The other three countries supporting Prost’s recommendation for removal from the Al Qaida blacklist, the envoys said, were Germany, South Africa and Guatemala.