Monday, June 4, 2007

Controversial NGO RIHS shut down

Controversial NGO RIHS shut down

Bangladesh chapter of giant Kuwait-based NGO Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) is still running its offices and covertly continuing activities through some other NGOs, despite cancellation of its registration around one month ago.

The RIHS, also known as Jamiatul Ehya-ut Turaj, played highly suspected roles by supplying funds to Islamist militants in the country, reliable sources said.

The NGO Affairs Bureau in an official letter on May 6 informed RIHS of the government decision of cancelling its registration.

Meanwhile, RIHS has appealed to the NGO Affairs Bureau for reconsidering cancellation of its registration.

It also intends to hand over one of its landed properties to an organisation named Mesbah Foundation. RIHS has landed properties in Rajshahi, Gazipur, Mymensingh, Dhaka and elsewhere.

The government in 2004 banned suspected Al Qaeda donor Al Haramain Foundation (now banned worldwide) but many Haramain staffs including five foreign nationals joined RIHS that eventually topped the list of suspected donors to militants.

Two Bangladeshi Haramain staffs -- engineer Masudur Rahman and Mujibor Rahman -- are still working with the RIHS as its director of projects and receptionist.

However, NGO Affairs Bureau Assistant Director AKM Humayun Kabir told The Daily Star, "The cancellation was decided following directives from the highest level of the government. So the question of considering any RIHS appeal does not arise at all."

The Bureau has nothing to do with RIHS properties and its foreign staffs living in the country, he added.

The Daily Star published a series of reports on RIHS activities in 2005 and 2006.

Intelligence agencies also repeatedly urged the government to ban the organisation but the matter was ignored for long.

The government was first advised to shut down RIHS after the arrest of militant kingpin and Ahle Hadith Andolon, Bangladesh (Ahab) chief Asadullah al Galib in February 2005.

Insistence on its ban was intensified in March 2006 when recently executed JMB chief Shaikh Abdur Rahman was captured.

Rahman told the media in 2004 that he got funds from Ahle Hadith-backed RIHS and Jamaat-e Islami-backed Saudi Arabian NGO Rabita-e Alam al Islami.

Banned in Pakistan, Afghanistan and some other countries, RIHS was already blacklisted by the US and the UNO. Sudanese citizen Abbas Bao is now running the Bangladesh chapter of RIHS as its acting director. He married a Bangladeshi woman.

In November 1996, RIHS was registered in the country with direct assistance from Galib and Ahab second man Abdus Samad Salafi (arrested with Galib, but released in October 2006). RIHS also used most of its average annual funds of Tk 25 crore through Galib, Samad Salafi and their men.

Contacted during the last few weeks, RIHS officials declined to talk with newsmen.

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