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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 February, 2003, 09:18 GMT
UK academic to fight terror claim
Basheer Musa Mohammed Nafi
Basheer Nafi is determined to stay in the UK and clear his name
An academic accused by the US of playing a leading role in an Islamic terror group says he will "fight to the bitter end" to clear his name.

Basheer Musa Mohammed Nafi, 50, was one of eight men indicted by US Attorney General John Ashcroft this week.

He is accused of being the British head of Islamic Jihad - designated a terrorist organisation in the US.

I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear
Basheer Nafi

It is believed to be responsible for more than 100 killings including suicide bombings, car bombs and drive-by shootings in and around Israel.

But Dr Nafi has denied having any connections with the militant Palestinian organisation.

"I support the Palestinian people's rights - those rights which are recognised by the United Nations and the international community," he told Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday.

"But I have nothing to do with organised politics whatsoever."

Dr Nafi said he had both an Irish and an Egyptian passport and could "leave this island now if I want".

Terror groups

But he said he intended to stay on in Oxfordshire where he has lived for 20 years and "fight them to the bitter end".

"What is being said against me is absolutely untrue. I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear."

Dr Nafi is a frequent contributor to Arab newspapers where he is seen as a moderate commentator and an opponent of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London based Arabic newspaper Al Quds, knows Dr Nafi, and described the indictments as a US "witch hunt" against the Palestinian community.

The US Attorney General said the arrests were part of the US war on terror, including efforts to stamp out terrorist finances.

Al-Arian (R) and al-Najjar in 2000
The academics complain of discrimination

They have so far made no moves to extradite Mr Nafi, although the Justice department told the BBC that that may come in time.

The British authorities have made no move to arrest him either.

Born in Egypt, Dr Nafi worked briefly in America in the mid-1990s and had an "academic involvement" with Palestinian professor Sami al-Arian - who taught at a Florida university.

Mr al-Arian - described by the indictment as the US leader of the group - was arrested early on Thursday alongside three other US residents.

The indictment describes numerous intercepted telephone calls and faxes in which those charged are said to have discussed bombings and other attacks, financial problems and whether to ally more closely with terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Al-Arian has been subject of lengthy FBI investigation
Used to run an Islamic charity
Accused of funnelling money to Palestinian groups

The authorities say the men frequently talk in apparent code, substituting words including "magazine" and "shirt" for thousands of dollars they were allegedly funnelling to Islamic Jihad.

Mr al-Arian, 45, has been under investigation since the early 1990s when he co-founded a now defunct Islamic studies think-tank, which the US Government considered a frontline organisation that raised funds for Islamic Jihad.

He has denied any links to terrorists and told reporters "it's all about politics," as he was led away in handcuffs.

Mr Nafi defended his colleague saying he was sure he was going to win his case as well.

If convicted, the men face life in prison.



The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The FBI says he's been raising funds for terrorism"

US charges 'Jihad financers'
20 Feb 03 |  Americas
The eight terrorism suspects
20 Feb 03 |  Americas
US deports Palestinian academic
23 Aug 02 |  Americas
Experts tackle terrorist funds
11 Feb 03 |  Business
US Muslims suffer backlash
19 Nov 02 |  Americas
Who are Islamic Jihad?
16 Nov 02 |  profiles


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