UN lifts sanctions on exiled Saudi
A UN Security Council committee is taking Saudi dissident Saad Al Faqih off the UN's Al Qaeda sanctions list, despite strong objections from Saudi Arabia, a UN diplomat said.
London-based Faqih was added to the list in December 2004, days after the US Treasury Department hit him with sanctions for suspected links to the late Osama bin Laden’s militant network.
Formerly a professor of medicine at a Saudi university, the exiled dissident heads the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia and has insisted that he and his group are committed to peace. Faqih is an outspoken critic of the Saudi leadership.
Faqih said it had been “a laborious battle” to get him off the list.
“All that has happened in the last eight years is that an innocent, peaceful activist, acting within the law, has been a victim of a conspiracy by tyrants in the Gulf supported by superpowers,” he said.
Britain was one of only four of the 15-nation Security Council’s sanctions committee members to support the ombudsman’s recommendation that Faqih be taken off the blacklist.
“The Saudis were pushing really hard against de-listing Al Faqih,” a diplomat said. “I don’t think the decision in London was an easy one.”
Last year, the Security Council expanded the ombudsman’s powers, giving the authority to recommend removal of people from the blacklist. Council members must all agree to override the recommendation or call for the council to take up the issue.
Those on the sanctions list are subject to asset freezes and an international travel ban.