transitional President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan said late
Sunday that the United States ought to have produced proof
before condemning a Somali remittance bank as a slush fund
for Osama bin Laden.
the United States stands for democracy and the rule of law
and justice and think it is wise for all leaders of the international
community not to be forced by terrorism to act differently
from due process of law, democracy and justice," he told journalists
in reaction to the closure of the Barakaat bank. "Actually,
one is innocent until proved otherwise.
the principle on which common law is founded," he said. Earlier
Sunday, Barakaat, whose main line of business is wiring money
from the Somali diaspora to relatives back home, announced
it would stay closed indefinitely as a result of the freezing
of its assets last week by authorities in the US and the United
are thousands of Somali families, especially poor ones, who
survive on remittances from relatives sent from five continents,"
he said, speaking in central Mogadishu office which was guarded
by numerous heavily armed men, some in uniform, some not.
has suffered years of factional warfare and lacked any semblance
of a central government between the fall of President Mohammed
Siad Barre in 1991 and the installation last year of Salat's
transitional and still fledgling regime. "Of course it was
a surprise to all Somali people in general and the government
to hear from US President George Bush that Barakaat was included
in the list of organistions linked to al-Qaeda," said Salat,
who was dressed in a lightweight black suit and sported a
slightly greying beard. "So far we dont have any clue (directly)
from the American side, their law enforcement agencies ...
we don't know more (about the allegations) than we hear from
CNN and the news," he said.
Secretary Paul O'Neill told a news conference last week that
Barakaat used the profits from remitting "hundreds of millions
of dollars" to fund al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and described
the bank as the "quartermaster of terror." Barakaat has categorically
denied the allegations and insists that the total amount of
money it moves around the world a year is about 140 million
dollars, and that this generates roughly 750,000 dollars in
bin Laden, we are talking about millions of dollars (that
they deal in), this would not be hard to find out," remarked
the Somali president. Salat would not be drawn to a categorical
judgement about the bank's culpability, beyond repeating the
presumption of innocence principle. He noted that Somali authorities
were probing the matter themselves and invited US experts
to set up a joint probe in Mogadishu.
it would have been better if we had cooperated with law enforcement
agencies in the US to investigate thoroughly what was going
on and then if there was a case, taken it to court," he said.
Like many others in Mogadishu, Salat said he believed the
US had been fed lies and suffered from a "gap in information
is a concerted effort against the Transitional National Government
and Somalia," he said, reiterating his earlier denial of the
presence in Somalia of training camps run by al-Qaeda or any
other terrorist group.