http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/feb/27/bbc-palestinian-territories'Not enough proof' for Panorama allegations linking charity to terrorismA Charity Commission inquiry has said there is not enough evidence to back a central allegation made in a Panorama programme linking a British charity operating in the Palestinian territories with terrorism.
A July 2006 edition of the BBC1 current affairs show by investigative reporter John Ware, called Faith, Hate and Charity, alleged that the Interpal charity gave money to Palestinian charities linked to terrorist group Hamas.
The Panorama documentary also claimed that a trustee of the charity, vice-chairman Dr Essam Mustafa, had links with Hamas and that Interpal was a key member of the Union for Good, a coalition of charities operating in the Palestinian territories which the BBC show alleged directed funding at militant preaching.
But in a report published today, the Charity Commission said that material handed to it by the BBC suggesting that certain partner organisations funded by Interpal may be promoting terrorist ideology or activities "was of insufficient evidential value" to support the allegation.
The Charity Commission added that Interpal, which provides humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, had maintained "clear financial audit trails in their delivery of aid for humanitarian purposes".
However, the commission did conclude that Interpal trustees had "not taken sufficiently rigorous steps to investigate allegations about some of their partner organisations" and had not put in place "adequate due diligence and monitoring procedures to be satisfied that these organisations were not promoting terrorist ideologies or activities". Where procedures were in place, "they were not sufficient nor fully implemented", the commission said.
Interpal had also "not adequately managed" its relationship with the Union for Good and its "continued membership of the Union for Good was not appropriate", the inquiry concluded.
"As a result of the inquiry, the commission has used its statutory powers to direct Interpal's trustees to review their due diligence and monitoring procedures relating to their partner organisations, end the charity's relationship with the Union for Good and ensure that no trustee holds office or has a role within the Union for Good," the report said.
Despite rejecting a central claim made by Panorama, a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said it was not its role to "prove or disprove the allegations" made in the programme.
"The purpose of the inquiry was not to look at all the allegations made in the programme, but to look at the material supplied by the BBC to identify the specific regulatory issues for the commission," she said.
"We looked at these specific issues and set out what our findings were and what, if any, action was required from the charity in response."
A BBC spokesman said: "We are pleased to see that the Charity Commission agrees with important points raised by Panorama regarding the running of Interpal."
The commission launched its inquiry into Interpal in December 2006 after requesting material from the BBC that appeared in the Panorama broadcast. It had also previously investigated the charity in 1996 and 2003.
Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of Interpal, said the charity had been "vindicated" by the Charity Commission inquiry. "The inquiry was triggered by a BBC Panorama programme in July 2006 which claimed that we had links with organisations promoting terrorism. The broadcast was totally irresponsible. Now, after a most rigorous process, these accusations have been refuted by the inquiry," Hewitt added.
"Interpal has collaborated fully with the Charity Commission during the inquiry. We note that the commission has also made suggestions to improve some of our procedures. We are, and always have been, ready to implement Charity Commission guidance."
However, the charity said it took issue with the commission's comments on its relationship with the Union for Good, asking it to revisit the issue.