A former London-based associate of Osama bin Laden facing US terrorism charges has asked a judge for authorization to seek testimony from an officer of Britain’s internal spy agency, MI5, which his lawyers claim might prove his innocence.
Lawyers for Khalid al-Fawwaz filed papers in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday seeking a court order requiring testimony from an MI5 officer with whom al-Fawwaz claims he was in regular contact with during four years he lived in London in the 1990s.
Al-Fawwaz was extradited from Britain to New York a year ago to face US conspiracy charges related to the deadly 1998 al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. He argues that testimony from the MI5 officer would confirm that al-Fawwaz was a legitimate Saudi dissident who did not engage in terrorist plotting with bin Laden.
Al-Fawwaz’s lawyers also claim that, during the course of his contacts with MI5, he was warned by the agency about a purported plot which “United States authorities” had hatched to assassinate him and other Saudi dissidents. An MI5 officer allegedly told al-Fawwaz the plot was going to be financed by the Saudi Arabian government and that “Moroccan agents” had been engaged as hit-men, the lawyers allege.
They offered no documentation publicly of such a plot.
Al-Fawwaz says that between 1994 and 1998 he headed the London office of the Advice and Reformation Committee, a dissident group which was pursuing peaceful reform of the Saudi government.
He says that while he and bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief killed by US Navy SEALs in 2011, were the only two publicly identified members of the organization, it had many other members who remained anonymous due to their fear of Saudi retaliation.
US authorities alleged that al-Fawwaz, who issued a series of communiques with bin Laden between 1994 and 1996, and his committee were acting as fronts for al-Qaeda, citing as supporting evidence that al-Fawwaz took security measures to shield his communications, court documents claim.
However, in their court filing, al-Fawwaz’s lawyers say that shortly after he first arrived in Britain in 1994, al-Fawwaz was approached by MI5. Subsequently, over the next four years, al-Fawwaz claims he regularly met with MI5 contacts for up to three hours at a time.
Al-Fawwaz claims that after informing him of the alleged US-Saudi plot to kill him, MI5 offered him bodyguards and improved home security. He claims that after bin Laden issued a message in 1996 declaring “war” on the US, al-Fawwaz insisted to his MI5 contacts that he, personally, did not support or advocate violence, and only sought peaceful reform.
Al-Fawwaz says he told MI5 that bin Laden’s declaration of war conflicted with his personal views and his committee’s policies to seek peaceful reform in Saudi Arabia.
Neither al-Fawwaz’s US lawyers, US prosecutors nor a British government representative had any comment on the latest court filing.
Last month, his lawyers received authorization from Judge Lewis Kaplan to request that British authorities turn over documents outlining al-Fawwaz’s contacts with MI5, as well as records of any electronic surveillance the agency conducted on al-Fawwaz’s home or telephones.
Kaplan initially denied a request by al-Fawwaz to issue an order requiring testimony from a specific MI5 officer who the defendant claims to have dealt with. In Thursday’s court filing, al-Fawwaz’s lawyers renewed this request.
His lawyers said that at one point during extradition proceedings that al-Fawwaz contested in British courts, an MI5 official appeared in court with a “substantial file.” However, the file was never turned over to defense lawyers after lawyers for MI5 said that al-Fawwaz’s alleged principal MI5 contact was out of the country. That is the same MI5 officer from whom al-Fawwaz has now asked the US court to order testimony.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures