Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 3 December 2020

Former US hostage accuses Qatari bank of funding field hospitals for terrorists

Matthew Schrier, kidnapped and tortured in Syria, accuses Qatar Islamic Bank of bankrolling charities which financed Al Qaeda

A logo sits on display outside a Qatar Islamic Bank branch in Doha, Qatar. Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A logo sits on display outside a Qatar Islamic Bank branch in Doha, Qatar. Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A former US hostage is suing a Qatari bank for allegedly funding terrorism and helping to bankroll Al Qaeda field hospitals where wounded terrorist fighters were treated.

Matthew Schrier was kidnapped and tortured in Syria by terrorists for 211 days in 2012 while working as a photographer.

He has filed a lawsuit under the Anti-Terrorism Act against Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) alleging that Syrian Al Qaeda terrorist groups, Jabhat Al Nusrah and Ahrar Al Sham, “used an international network of donors and charities to fund” their activities.

“The Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham relied on defendant Qatar Islamic Bank to provide financial services to those donors and financial support to the charities,” the court papers say.

“This action seeks to hold QIB accountable for its role in financing and supporting their terrorist activities.

“QIB played two substantial roles in supporting the groups that held Mr Schrier captive. First, it allowed Qatari national Saad bin Saad Al Kabi to open an account in the name of his minor son and to use that account to funnel money from donors in Qatar and elsewhere to the Nusra Front. Second, it donated a substantial sum to Qatar Charity, a known Al Qaeda funder and well-publicised supporter of Ahrar Al Sham.”

Al Kabi ran a social media campaign to gain funds for the terrorist group during the time Mr Schrier was held hostage and gave the QIB account to donors.

In 2015, Al Kabi was placed on the US sanctions list for funding Al Qaeda.

“QIB knew what the Al Kabi account was for. At the time Al Kabi used the account to fundraise for the Nusra Front, QIB had customer due diligence policies designed to prevent its services from being used to finance terrorism,” the papers say.

“It also had periodic account monitoring policies to prevent accounts from being used to finance terrorism.”

The lawsuit alleges that QIB paid money to the Qatar Charity, which is blacklisted in the UAE, which then formed a partnership with the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) to fund medical aid for Al Qaeda fighters.

“[They] created a partnership to support the Syrian Islamic Front and Ahrar Al Sham, for example by supporting field hospitals to treat and provide non-medical services to wounded AhrarAl Sham, Nusra Front and Syrian Islamic Front fighters,” the papers state.

It says QIB paid 500,000 Qatari riyals ($137,324) to the Qatar Charity in 2013 despite international reports blacklisting it and IHH “as entities contaminated with funds related to terrorism.”

“Upon information and belief, and given Qatar Charity’s open support of Syrian terrorist groups, QIB knew its donations to Qatar Charity would support Ahrar Al Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front,” the court papers add.

“QIB also maintained eight bank accounts for Qatar Charity and knew based on its due diligence policies and the information they yielded that Qatar Charity funded terrorist groups around the world.

“This evidence supports the inference that QIB agreed, expressly or tacitly, with Qatar Charity and Ahrar Al Sham to bring about acts of international terrorism in Syria. QIB’s donations furthered that essential goal by providing financial support to Ahrar Al Sham.

“QIB knew that by agreeing to donate 500,000 Qatari riyals to Qatar Charity that it was joining a conspiracy with Qatar Charity, Ahrar Al Sham, the Nusra Front, and others that had the essential goal of committing acts of international terrorism, including kidnapping Americans."

Mr Schrier was kidnapped by Al Nusrah 18 days after he arrived in Syria to report on the war.

During captivity he was repeatedly tortured, starved and threatened with execution.

In the final 46 days of his ordeal, he was handed over to the allied Ahrar Al Sham who he alleges also mistreated him.

He managed to escape in 2012, and with the aid of Free Syrian Army rebels made his way to the Turkish border and eventually back to New York.

He filed a 60-page lawsuit in Florida this year in a bid to claim damages from QIB for bankrolling the terrorist groups who held him.

Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, any US citizen injured by international terrorism can sue organisations in a federal court.

Last year, hundreds of people filed a lawsuit in Washington against several companies accused of making protection payments to the Taliban that allowed for continued attacks against Americans.

Updated: October 9, 2020 04:59 PM

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