ATbar ICT Global Terrorism Brief: Australia
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ICT Global Terrorism Brief: Australia

05/08/2008 | by Database Desk  

The Investigation


On 24 July 2008 the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the New South Wales (NSW) police force raided the office of the Muslim Aid Australia (MAA) located in Lakemba, Sydney, home to a majority of Sydney’s Muslim community.[1] During the seven-hour raid of the office on Haldon Street interviews were conducted with MAA staff members; “computer files and financial records” were confiscated.[2] It was on 8 July 2008 that The Australian originally reported the AFP had joined a long list of government organizations investigating the activities of the organization; MAA is registered with the Australian government as a charity and non-profit company.[3]


Though AFP, itself, did not confirm this at the time, it allegedly began conducting the investigation in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the NSW Government's Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing. The latter of the two opened an investigation into MAA during the first week of July 2008 after an article released by The Australian reported that the charity worked with Interpal earlier this year to supply Gaza residents with medical aid. The Australian Council for International Development (AFCID), the government’s organization in charge of supervising charities, also launched an investigation last week. This came after the executive director of the charity, Iman Partoredjo, withdrew his previous statement confirming MAA’s ties with Interpal.[4]

Interpal and ties to Muslim Aid Australia

The British organization Interpal, defines itself as “‘non-political, non-profits-making British charity that works with international funding and partners on the ground to provide relief and development aid to Palestinians.’”[5] 

Interpal has been proscribed, or officially listed as an illegal entity, in Australia and the United States based on alleged ties to terrorism. In 2003, the United States Department of Treasury (DOT) accused Interpal of using supposed humanitarian aid to Palestinians as ‘cover’ for the support it provided to Hamas in the Palestinian territory.[6] Under the Charter of the United Nations Australians can receive up to 10 years in prison or a fine of $275,000. Organizations may be fined up to $1.1 million for relations with groups listed on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Consolidated List, to which Interpal was added to on 21 November 2003. This came three months after President Bush and the DOT accused Interpal of having ties to Hamas.[7] 

In the statement released by The Australian Partoredjo reported and later denied, “‘Tight control over trans-shipment of aid by the IDF saw our medical aid items delivered and distributed by those able to be on the ground, such as UN agencies and NGOs, e.g. United Nations Relief and Works Agency ... Interpal, Families Relief, etc.’” The aid was allegedly donated in early 2008.[8] The Australian also reported that according to a news memo from Muslim Aid UK’s website MAA had contributed to the $10 million raised and donated to Palestinians by Interpal.[9] According to the most recent newsletter released by MAA, $800,000 had been given to 42,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the form of various necessities.[10] Partoredjo has since refused interview requests by The Australian, but told AFCID executive director, Paul O'Callaghan, he was mistaken in the information he provided in his original statement. O’Callaghan stated Partorjedo had now had the opportunity to look over MAA’s financial documents, and found no transfer of money to Interpal.[11] Interpal failed to respond to phone calls and emails sent by The Australian the paper reported on 2 July 2008.[12]

About Muslim Aid Australia and its Members

Indonesian-born Partoredjo is one of MAA’s five directors; he has not been the only one to deny the most recent allegations. The other directors include: “Iraqi-born Mohammed Taha Alsalami, Indian-born Riyaad Ahmed, Australian-born Anjum Rafiqi, and Hassan Vakili, born in Iran.” Dr. Alsalami stated in an interview with The Australian, published on 8 July 2008, that he was not aware that Interpal had been ruled an illegal organization or that MAA had used Interpal to distribute aid. Alsalami stated he was unaware of MAA’s “day-to-day” activities, though an internal document listed the connections between the two organizations. Furthermore, on the MAA website it states, “‘Working in partnership with Interpal, Muslim Aid and Muslim Aid Australia is asking you to make a difference to the lives of those isolated from the world by the conflict.’”[13]

Alsalami was previously a member of John Howard's Muslim Community Reference Group and a member of the Immigration Detention Advisory Group (IDAG) as of March 2008.[14] IDAG members were appointed without fixed terms in 2001 by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to assist on issues surrounding immigration.[15] All members have access to detention centers, their personnel and the detainees in order to obtain firsthand information.[16]

In a later interview, this time with the AFP and published in The Australian on 25 July, Alasami told police officials he was surprised to find that MAA had not pulled the “‘Gaza Crisis’” call for aid and link to Interpal from the website after the initial investigations began at the start of July. He believed it “wrong” to continue with the fundraiser, and stated his co-workers would, assumedly, cooperate with the law.[17] MAA removed the “‘Gaza Crisis’” appeal from it’s website on 25 July following the release of the article; it did not return phone calls from The Australian.[18]

MAA has been accused of funneling money to terrorist organizations in the past, as well. An Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) article released 25 June 2003 reported MAA had given $5,000 to KOMPAK, and Indonesian charity, for post-earthquake aid. ABC reported that the money, however, has been given to other, terrorist, organizations associated with KOMPAK, such as, Jemaah Islamiah, Al Qa’ida and Hamas. Experts interviewed claimed members of KOMPAK “wore two hats,” one of which belonged to a terrorist organization. The ABC article claimed that the Australians may have been unaware of the organization’s terrorist ties. Partoredjo was quoted as saying, “Our focus is on the aid game and it is not really in the intelligence gathering game and that's where, I guess, the gap will remain unless there is some broaching of this gap between agencies and Government authorities.”[19] Interpal has been on the DFAT’s list for almost five years.[20] MAA’s website and the website of Muslim Aid UK, however, both, until 25 July 2008, cited the fundraising ties between MAA and Interpal.[21]

Works Cited

The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008

The Australian, “Charity used ‘terror’ group to distribute aid in Gaza”, 2 July 2008.

The Australian, “Muslim charity under investigation cancels Gaza appeal” 26 July 2008.

The Australian, “Police raid on Muslim charity” 25 July 2008.

Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), “Funds diverted” 25 June 2003.

Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, “Purpose and Operations of the Immigration Detention Advisory Group”, 2006.

DIAC Advisory, “Consultative and Governance Committees”, 5 March 2008.



Notes:

[1] The Australian, “Police raid on Muslim charity” 25 July 2008.


[2] The Australian, “Police raid on Muslim charity” 25 July 2008 and The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008

[3] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Australian, “Charity used ‘terror’ group to distribute aid in Gaza”, 2 July 2008.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008.

[8] The Australian, “Charity used ‘terror’ group to distribute aid in Gaza”, 2 July 2008

[9] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008.

[10] The Australian, “Charity used ‘terror’ group to distribute aid in Gaza”, 2 July 2008

[11] The Australian, “Charity facing ban over Gaza aid”, 3 July 2008.

[12] The Australian, “Charity used ‘terror’ group to distribute aid in Gaza”, 2 July 2008.

[13] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008.

[14] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008 and DIAC Advisory, “Consultative and Governance Committees”, 5 March 2008.

[15] DIAC Advisory, “Consultative and Governance Committees”, 5 March 2008 and the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, “Purpose and Operations of the Immigration Detention Advisory Group”, 2006.

[16] Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, “Purpose and Operations of the Immigration Detention Advisory Group”, 2006.



[17] The Australian, “Police raid on Muslim charity”, 25 July 2008.

[18] The Australian, “Muslim charity under investigation cancels Gaza appeal” 26 July 2008.

[19] ABC, “Funds diverted” 25 June 2003.

[20] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008 and The Australian, “Charity used ‘terror’ group to distribute aid in Gaza”, 2 July 2008.

[21] The Australian, “AFP probes Muslim charity’s Gaza link”, 8 July 2008 and The Australian, “Muslim charity under investigation cancels Gaza appeal” 26 July 2008.