GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A Saudi Arabian government official who started an Islamic charity in Oregon has been taken off a United Nations list of people subject to sanctions for ties to al-Qaida but remains on a similar U.S. list.
The U.N. Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida removed Soliman al-Buthe, now a deputy minister in Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Municipalities, from the list Monday.
Al-Buthe still faces arrest if he returns to the United States. A federal indictment alleges he smuggled $150,000 in cash collected by Al Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000 to help terrorists in Chechnya. His co-defendant, Iranian-American tree surgeon Pete Seda, is serving 33 months in prison after being convicted of conspiracy and tax fraud.
Al-Buthe's attorney Tom Nelson said the U.N. action is some vindication for his client, but al-Buthe is still trying to get off the U.S. terrorism list.
"It all goes back to the days immediately after 9/11, when the government embarked on a crusade to find terrorists under every bed," Nelson said. "A lot of innocent people got sucked in and harmed very significantly as a result. More and more of those cases are coming out all the time."
Al-Buthe said in a statement that all he ever wanted was a fair chance to clear his name.
"While the Americans still refuse to disclose reasons behind their actions, the United Nations now prohibits unfair practices. It was this change that allowed me to clear my name."
He and Al Haramain remain on the Treasury Department's al-Qaida sanctions list. The foundation disbanded after the department froze its assets in 2004 for allegedly aiding terrorists in Chechnya and Albania. A federal appeals court upheld the listing, but not the assets freeze.
Nelson said Treasury has not responded to his application to be taken off the list since he filed it two years ago.
Treasury spokesman John Sullivan said people are taken off the list, but he did immediately respond to questions about whether al-Buthe's request to be removed had been received or why Nelson has received no response.
The reasons al-Buthe was taken off the U.N. list were not given by the committee, which said in a statement only that it considered a request submitted through the committee's ombudsperson, and the ombudsperson's comprehensive report.
Kimberly Prost, ombudsperson for the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, said al-Buthe was the 21st applicant to be taken off the list, made up of more than 350 people and organizations. Two others whose cases have been reviewed were not. She said her report was confidential and she could not disclose its contents.