The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into an Islamic humanitarian aid charity following allegations that some within it have been involved in supporting fighters in Syria.
The regulator opened an investigation into Al-Fatiha Global on 21 March, a few days after The Sun ran a front-page story alleging Adniel Ali, who it described as Al-Fatiha's chief executive but who the charity says was a volunteer, was in Syria supporting rebel fighters. An image run alongside the story appeared to show Ali embracing masked fighters brandishing AK47s. Al Fatiha has categorically denied any involvement in criminal activity or fighting.
The charity has since suspended Ali, but has criticised the Commission for launching a statutory inquiry and announced its intention to appeal the decision to hold the inquiry.
In a statement, the charity said: "While we understand the pressures the Charity Commission is under from the security services and the media to be seen to be clamping down on Muslim involvement in aid to Syria, we do not agree that a formal inquiry is the best way forward to address any issues identified.
"We have been co-operating with the Commission and been providing information they required to address any administrative shortcomings or concerns."
The charity said that the investigation placed an undue burden on the work of its volunteers in trying to provide aid to people in need in Syria.
The statutory inquiry is investigating whether individuals associated with the charity have been “supporting armed or other inappropriate activities in Syria”. The charity has been monitored by the Commission since 2013.
The Commission is also looking into whether trustees have been accounting income and expenditure at the charity correctly in accordance with their responsibilities.
Al-Fatiha Global is an aid agency which aims to deliver free medical care in clinics in northern Pakistan and to provide humanitarian assistance during conflicts. Its most recent charity accounts reveal income of less than £5,000 from a peak of £36,296 in 2008. The charity’s Twitter account indicates it has been fundraising for its work in Syria, and a MyDonate fundraising page shows it has raised just under £1,700 for its mission there. Al-Fatiha Global convoys carrying aid to Syrians The charity has appeared on national news programmes, including the BBC.
The charity said: "Al-Fatiha Global is a registered charity which has grown beyond our expectations over the last 12 months in response to British Muslims' desire to help the people of Syria. It is managed entirely by volunteers and has no paid staff. Despite this it has delivered invaluable aid to help the suffering people of Syria with food and medical aid and lifesaving ambulances and fire engines.
"We have not been involved in any form of terrorism, criminality or fighting as has been alleged in the media, notably The Sun newspaper. We are confident that any inquiry will reach the same conclusion. As a result of the allegations in The Sun, the trustees have suspended Adniel Ali from all responsibilities for the charity pending the outcome of an independent investigation into the allegations."