A charity has been removed from the register and its former trustees given a ten-year ban after concerns were raised about possible links to terrorism, according to an inquiry report published today.
The Commission opened its inquiry into the Anatolia People’s Cultural Centre in April 2016 after information was passed on to it by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.
This followed the arrest of one of the organisation’s trustees, Ayfer Yildiz, on suspicion of offences under the terrorism act. It officially announced the opening of its inquiry in June 2017, after Yildiz's trial ended.
While Yildiz was found not guilty of the offences in May 2017, the Commission found that the organisation’s trustees “were in default of their legal duties to submit statutory returns with the Commission” for the financial years 2011 through to 2015.
As part of their investigation into Yildiz, the police had raided the charity’s rented premises.
According to information passed on to the Commission, the police found what was described as a “shrine” at the premises upon which were placed images including “two females brandishing firearms with flags depicted the logos” of the Revolutionary Peoples’ Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a proscribed terrorist organisation.
The shrine also featured numerous other images including those of “Safak Yayla and Bahtiyar Dogruyo”, who were “responsible for the kidnapping” of a Turkish state prosecutor in March 2015. The police also found “flags depicting the logos of the DHKP-C” which were “clearly visible to members of the public from the street”.
The police subsequently notified the Commission that the charity’s premises were subject to a “temporary closure order”.
A number of charity collection tins were also seized by the police, containing a total of £822.30. This made the Commission “aware that the charity had been receiving donations” at the time it opened its inquiry.
The Anatolia People’s Cultural Centre was based in North London. Its charitable objects were listed as: “the relief of poverty, sickness and distress of members of the community, particularly those of Kurdish or Turkish descent who are resident in London by the provision of information, guidance and support; and to advance the education of such a person”.
The Commission found that the charity was mismanaged by its trustees due to the “unacceptable and entirely inappropriate” images being displayed by the organisation which would, in the inquiry’s view, “lead an ordinary member of the public to infer that the charity supported the conduct of those individuals who features in the images, and endorsed acts of terrorism and/or extremism”.
The trustees also “repeatedly failed to comply with directions and orders” from the Commission during the inquiry and failed to provide any “information and copy documents relating to the management and administration of the charity.”
During the inquiry, the Commission was “unable to identify” the income received by the organisation, or a bank account in its name. The charity had received a £10,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund in July 2010.
The charity’s governing document “required the trustees to maintain and operate a bank account”.
The charity was removed from the Charity Commission register on 6 September 2017 as it had ceased to operate. All trustees on the charity board at the time were disqualified from being charitable trustees for a period of 10 years.
Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "The association of any charity with terrorism and/or extremism is wholly unacceptable. The role of charity trustees is to protect their charities from abuse of this kind and the trustees’ failure to do this or to cooperate with the regulator is evidence that they are unfit to act as charity trustees.
“As was the case here, we work closely with the police and other authorities to tackle the threats that terrorism and extremism pose to charities, their beneficiaries and their work."