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SOUTH AFRICA: UN Terror List Hangs Over Two Cousins

Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 23 2007 (IPS) - Two South Africans are fighting the U.S. plan to put their names on the United Nations Security Council list of suspected terrorists alleged to have ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The United States accuses Junaid Dockrat and Farhad Dockrat of being “financers, recruiters and facilitators of al-Qaeda and the deposed Taliban in Afghanistan”.

Washington made the request to the Security Council on Jan. 18.

Junaid Dockrat, a dentist, and Farhad Dockrat have denied the allegations. The allegations first appeared in South Africa’s Sunday Times on Jan. 21. They have generated heated debates in bars, taxis, offices and homes here.

“This is the first time that South Africans are facing the prospects of being placed on UN terror suspects list,” Anneli Botha, senior researcher on terrorism at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told IPS in an interview.

As of December 2006, the list of individuals and entities belonging to or associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban totalled 487, according to al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee of the United Nations. In Africa, the list includes suspects from Somalia, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria, Botha said.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, accused of masterminding the terror attacks on New York and Washington on Sep. 11, 2001, lived in Sudan from 1991 to 1996 before relocating to Afghanistan, following pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Like all those on the UN list, the Dockrats are Muslims. Muslims make up two percent of South Africa’s population, according to official statistics.

“Many of them have strong views about the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. They have also criticised the invasion of Somalia (in December 2006) by U.S.-ally Ethiopia. They feel that Muslims are being targeted, unjustly, by the West,” Hussein Ali, an Islamic teacher in Johannesburg, told IPS by telephone. “I would like to believe that America targets Muslims for just holding strong views on Washington’s biased foreign policy.”

“So far, the two South African suspects are not on the (UN) list,” said Botha. She denied media reports that the names would automatically appear on the Security Council list as early as Jan. 26, if no Security Council member objected to the U.S. request when the council meets this week.

“It will take time for their names to be included on the list. Take, for example, the Trust in Pakistan in which Farhad is alleged to have made some financial contributions. The process took two years (2003-2005) for it to be placed on the UN list,” she said.

Farhad Dockrat, principal of the Darus Salaam Islamic College in Pretoria, was quoted by The Star newspaper Tuesday as denying an allegation by the United States that he had given about 400,000 rand (58,000 dollars at today’s exchange rate) to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan to forward to an organisation named as Al-Akthar Trust.

In 2005, Farhad Dockrat and his son were detained in Gambia after visiting Islamic learning institutions there and Senegal. Since then, they have complained that they have been placed on surveillance by security agents.

Shaheed Dollie, the lawyer representing the Dockrats, submitted an urgent letter to South Africa’s department of foreign affairs Jan. 23 to clarify the U.S. threat. Dollie sent a copy of the letter to the U.S. authorities asking them to provide proof that his clients have links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

“The Security Council, both permanent and non-permanent members, will sit and agree before the names of the two suspects are placed on the UN list,” Botha said. “Real evidence must be provided before their names are put on the list.”

The Dockrats are pinning their hopes on South Africa’s non-permanent membership on Security Council to object the U.S. plan.

Aziz Pahad, deputy minister of foreign affairs, said South Africa would demand proof from the United States about the two men. South African foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said on Tuesday his department was discussing the issue with the U.S. authorities. He said they were also waiting for directives from Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Under UN regulations, if blacklisted, the suspects’ assets would be seized, their bank accounts frozen and their passports confiscated. They will be prevented from travelling outside South Africa.

“Then there may be a criminal charge brought against them in South Africa. The state will decide whether or not to persecute them,” Botha said. South Africa, which is still emerging from the racist apartheid system and shaking off the image of being a source of mercenaries, has enacted tough terror laws.

Since Sep. 11, 2001, South African Muslims have complained that they were finding it increasingly difficult to enter the United States. One of them, Adam Habib, the executive director of the Democracy and Governance Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, had his visa revoked by the U.S. government on his arrival in New York’s JFK International Airport on Oct. 21, 2006. Habib, an outspoken commentator, had travelled to the United States on a business trip.

“If you are an important person in your community and suddenly you are being branded as a terrorist like the Dockrats, it becomes embarrassing. You loose face in your community,” Islamic teacher Ali said.

Others say too much emphasis on anti-U.S. rhetoric would not resolve the issues around terror. “I don’t think South Africa can be excluded from such allegations. We are part of the international community. We can’t pretend that everything is always right. We must be realistic. We must keep an open mind about things around us,” Botha said.

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