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19 Feb, 2015 15:46

​London Muslim charity Global Aid Trust investigated over ‘extremist links’

​London Muslim charity Global Aid Trust investigated over ‘extremist links’

The chief of a Muslim charity Global Aid Trust stepped down and a formal investigation has been launched by the Charity Commission over the group’s alleged links to extremism.

The group’s chief executive, Rizwan Hussein, stepped down ahead of the broadcast of an ITV undercover investigation, which examined whether the charity was promoting extremism.

In the ITV documentary, Exposure: Charities Behaving Badly, an undercover reporter, posing as a volunteer, speaks to a charity member called Shaffiq Shabbar, who tells him he admired the late hate preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

Shabbar tells the reporter: “They spread loads of lies about him ... He's a scholar and basically he was imprisoned and after he came out of prison he started to incite hatred and telling the Western Muslims to bomb.

“He incited bombings basically. Bruv, he was a brilliant guy though.”

US-born al-Awlaki, a key Al-Qaeda leader, was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

READ MORE:Muslim charities lose govt grants, accused of ‘extremist’ links

When asked if it is still possible to travel to Syria, Shabbar replies: “You go to Turkey and jump over the border and when I say jump over the border I mean literally. You’ll probably have Al-Qaeda on the other side to help you, so it is very easy to go in.”

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: “We are disturbed at the footage we have seen – some of which is so serious it is clearly a matter for the police.

“Rightly the public will be concerned about the footage and the implications for public trust and confidence in these charities, and the potential impact on the charity sector more generally. We can reassure the public that we take these issues seriously.”

READ MORE:UK Islamic charity cleared of funding terror, Palestine aid work resumes

Global Aid Trust was launched in 2004 and has an annual income of more than half a million pounds a year. On its website, the group says it aims to promote education among the underprivileged and to alleviate poverty around the world.

In response to the reports, Global Aid Trust said Hussein had already planned a phased exit from the charity, and stepped down as CEO back in December.

“GAT wishes to make it clear that [it] does not promote any extremist activities or terrorism,” it said in a statement.

“We do not endorse or promote any of the personal views expressed by individuals highlighted in the program.”

A spokesman for Global Aid Trust also told the Telegraph: “We firmly condemn and reject the comments made by Shaffiq and the external speakers. We express our great regret at these incidents, which were the result of a process failure in the organization.”