The Al Bander report: what it says and what it means
Maintaining Sectarian Division and Penetrating NGO’s
By Zara Al Sitari, Bahrain Center for Human Rights – September 2006
A secret web lead by a high government official, who is a member of the royal family, has been operating in Bahrain with an aim to manipulate the results of coming elections, maintain sectarian distrust and division, and to ensure that Bahrain’s Shi’as remain oppressed and disenfranchised, according to Dr. Salah Al Bandar, strategic planning’s chancellor at the Council of Ministers Affairs. As a result of leaking the information, Dr Al Bander was deported to the United Kingdom on September 13th as he is a British citizen.
The 216-page report, which was distributed by the Gulf Centre for Democratic Development (GCDD), contains almost 200 pages of cheques, receipts, letters, bank statements and accounts sheets to support this claim.
The secret web works through a media group, an electronic group, an intelligence team, a newspaper, a Shia to Sunni conversion programme, and civil societies to carry out these activities, the report says.
The total cost of these activities (so far) is said to be more than BD 1 million, and the main financier is named as Civil Informatics Organization (CIO) head Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa , founder of the higher committee for elections.
It seems that the secret organization is established and has built its strategies based on the analysis and recommendations of a confidential study written in September 1st, 2005 entitled: “A Proposal to Promote the General Situation of the Sunni Sect in Bahrain”. The study, which is published in the leaked report- is reportedly written by an Iraqi Academic, Dr. Nezar Alani, who is now heading the Ettehad University in the United Arab Emirates. The leaked documents show that Dr. Alani had received an amount of BD3000.
How the web works:
Shaikh Ahmed has five main operators working underneath him, who he pays from his personal bank account at Kuwait Finance House, the report says.
Main Operator 1: Dr Raed Shams
Shaikh Ahmed’s “right hand man” in running the organization is said to be CIO statistics directorate head and member of the elections committee Dr Raed Mohammed Abdulla Shams. Dr Shams has well-known connections to the Sunni Islamist Al Eslah Society and its political wing, Al Menbar.
He is said to be paid BD 1,200 per month for supervising the Jordanian intelligence cell and liaising with members of Bahraini NGOs who are allegedly paid to act on the organizations’ behalf. The Jordanian intelligence cell was supplied with an office in Bahrain’s diplomatic area and collectively paid more than BD 5,000 per month to monitor political developments in Bahrain, with particular attention to the Shia, the report alleges.
- A payment authorization slip included in the report allegedly shows that Shaikh Ahmed paid Dr Shams a BD 1,578 installment towards “residence costs for the Jordanians”.
- The payment slip is matched with a BD 3,578 bill for room charges and meals at the Hilton hotel.
- Receipts in the report allegedly signed by a Lieutenant Colonel Amr Al Raddad, purport to show the payment of BD 6,784 in January this year, and BD 6,384 in February this year, in salaries for the four members of the intelligence team.
The four NGOs shown to be on the organization’s payroll are the Jurists’ Society, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, the Bahrain First Society and the Bahrain Political Society. The report contains correspondence allegedly showing Jurists’ Society member, Al Watan newspaper columnist, and lawyer Youseff Al Hashemi requesting BD 2,643 for the society’s expenses. It also contains a number of receipts which allegedly show Mr Al Hashemi receiving BD 1,000 in incentives.
- Payment authorization slips signed by Shaikh Ahmed and Dr Shams allegedly show the following payments to the society: BD 1,132 on October 21 2005 for electricity bills and books, and BD 5,500 on December 11 2005 for nine months’ rent.
- The December payment authorization slip is also shown to be signed by a man named as the organization’s banker at Kuwait Finance House, Hamad Ahmed Al-Muhaiza.
- Receipts also allegedly show Shura Council member and Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society member Faisal Fulad, Bahrain First society member Mohammed Al Maran, and Bahrain Political Society member Jaber Al Swaidy receiving BD 500 each for ‘incentives’, in January, February and March this year.
- A receipt allegedly signed by Mr Al Swaidy appears to show him receiving a payment which will give BD 3,000 to MP Jassim Al Saeedi, BD 2,000 to parliamentary candidate Jamal Dawood Salman and BD 3,000 towards the society’s building.
- A letter included in the report allegedly shows Mr Salman, a candidate in the Northern constituency number eight, requesting the “head of electoral campaigns” (who is not named) for BD 1,200 to pay for his campaign tent and furnishings.
- The BD 1,200 payment is listed in a breakdown of the organization’s expenditure, alongside BD 1,000 in “financial assistance” for a football game and cultural event, purportedly organized by Mr Salman as part of his campaign.
Others electoral candidates allegedly on the organization’s payroll are said to be Khamis Al Rumaihi, Salah Al Jalahma and Dr Salah Ali. The report also contains a receipt for BD 10,000 allegedly signed on August 25 by an individual named Adnan Mohammed Abdulrahman Bucheeri, who it describes as being in charge of financing candidates.
Main operator 2: Mohammed Al Qaed
Shaikh Ahmed’s “left hand man” is said to be CIO IT directorate manager, electronic voting supervisor and higher elections committee head Mohammed Ali Al Qaed.
Mr Al Qaed also sits on the elections committee and has well-known connections with the islamists Al Menbar and Al Eslah groups.
He is paid BD 1,200 per month as supervisor of an “electronic group” which are involved in running Bahrain’s e-voting program, running websites and Internet forums which foment sectarian hatred, and SMS campaigns for the organization, the report says.
The “Electronic group” is said to be headed by Bahrain Airport Services employee and soon-to-be IT head at the Cabinet Affairs Ministry.
- A receipt from South African Celerity Systems included in the report shows the purchase of “block SMS credits” worth 740 Euros on August 1 last year attributed to a Bahrain address.
- A bill for BD 7,639 purportedly drawn up by Mr Al Qaed details payments made to individuals working on e-voting projects, technical assistance, administrative work and to pay for printers, scanners and computers is included in the report.
- It is matched with a cheque for the same amount written to Mr Al Qaed from Shaikh Ahmed on August 8.
Main Operator 3: Adel Busaiba
The third “civil leader” is said to be CIO employee, Islamic Education Society Social Activities director and Al Asalah Society member Adel Rashid Busaiba. Mr Busaiba is paid BD 1,000 per month for activities to mobilize Sunnis against Shiites and for running a “Sunni Conversion” project and a “Sectarian Switch” project, the report alleges.
- A cheque worth BD 955 purportedly written to Mr Busaiba from Shaikh Ahmed on August 2, to pay for “advertisements” is included in the report.
- It is placed alongside an invoice to the Islamic Education Society from the Akhbar Al Khaleej newspaper publishing house requesting BD 555 to pay for an advertisement on February 27 and an invoice from the Al Watan newspaper publishing company asking for BD 400 to pay for an advert on August 2.
- An undated advert from an Arabic newspaper shows a statement bearing the name of 15 Islamic charities and 9 Islamic societies – including the Islamic Education Society and the Al Asalah Society – condemning attacks on Sunni mosques in Iraq.
- A receipt included in the report also purports to show Mr Busaiba receiving BD 1,501 on August 17 2005 for “the cost of payments towards converts from Shia to Sunni (literally, ‘those who have been enlightened’)”.
- The report also contains charts listing small sum (BD30 to BD 150) alleged payments to individuals for electricity, telephone and water bills, school fees and educational courses, and a list of 37 names under the heading “new converts in 2005”.
Main Operator 4: Nasser Lori
A former CIO employee, Royal Court assistant undersecretary for coordination and follow up and 10 per cent shareholder in the Bahraini Al Watan newspaper Nasser Lori, is named in the report as another of the five “civil leaders”.
Mr Lori, the report suggests, is involved in a secretive naturalization program at the Royal Court and has well known connections with Salafi Islamist groups in the Gulf and Middle East. He is allegedly paid BD 1,000 per month through a Shamil bank account to supervise the activities of the Al Watan newspaper, which the report suggests is fully complicit in the organization’s work.
- The report contains a BD 39,375 cheque written to “the Al Watan newspaper” allegedly signed by Mr Lori on July 25.
- A receipt for a BD 1,000 “incentive for the month of June” allegedly signed by Mr Lori is also included as well as two cash deposit slips: one worth BD 5,000 paid into his Shamil bank account on November 9, 2005 and another for BD 9,000 paid into his account on February 22, 2006.
Main Operator 5: Jamal Al-Asiri
The fifth “civil leader” is said to be advisor to Royal Court minister Mohammed bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, editor of the Al Watan newspaper, former BBC (Arabic) correspondent and former Al Eslah society magazine coordinator, Jamal Yousif Al-Asiri.
Mr Al Asiri is paid BD 800 per month as head of public relations and news for the organization, the report alleges.
He is said to be provided with BD 3,000 per month to run a monitoring body called the “Centre for Public Opinion” with his brother Yacoub Yousif Al-Asiri, and Al Watan board of board of directors head Hisham Abdulrahman Jaffer Bucheeri.
- A series of cheques included in the report purport to show Mr Al Asiri receiving BD 3,000 in January, February, March and April from Shaikh Ahmed as “salary for running a centre for public opinion”.
- A receipt from July 8 also allegedly shows Mr Lori receiving BD 800 as an “incentive for the month of June”.
- Receipts also purport to show Al Watan journalists receiving “incentive” payments.
- Mr Lori is also said to receive further funding to pay local media and public relations workers from government ministries and private newspapers who work as part of an “Egyptian Media Group”.
The “Egyptian Media Group” is said to work from offices in the Zinj and Riffa areas under the control of Royal Court media worker Ali Radhi Hasanain. The group was allegedly paid BD 12,000 towards its establishment and said to work by planting stories in local newspapers under false names, preparing media pieces (mainly for Al Watan newspaper), and providing local columnists with prepared articles for them to reproduce as their own.
- A cheque for BD 1,600 allegedly signed by Shaikh Ahmed and written to Mr Lori is matched with a request for BD 1,600 to pay individuals belonging to a “media support group”.
- The report also includes receipts allegedly showing media and public relations workers receiving financial “incentives” and payments for “services”.
- Kuwait Finance House employees Hamad Al Muhaiza and Ahmed Khayri also receive monthly incentive payments for the “work” they do for the organisation, the report alleges.
A receipt included purportedly shows Mr Al Muhaiza receiving BD 500 on March 31 as an “incentive for the month of February”.
What it means
At a crucial time for the new democratic process in Bahrain, these allegations cast a shadow of doubt on the genuine opportunity for all people in Bahrain to live in equality and with dignity.
According to the findings of this report, policies to subjugate Bahrain’s Shia majority are not left behind in the pre-reform era, but are being practised today by high ranking government officials.
These allegations are devastating to the goodwill of people who embraced the chance for a better life under a new regime, and a provide a bitter confirmation to those who have rejected the reforms as being merely a faÃ§ade.
For the sake of trust, stability and security in Bahrain, the BCHR calls for:
- An independent and honest fact finding commission into these allegations.
- Officials implicated must have their positions frozen pending an investigation, and detach themselves completely from the electoral process.
- Those found guilty of this crime against the Bahraini people should be brought to justice.