A CHARITY leader from Worcester has been pictured with his arms around two masked gunmen in Syria, according to The Sun.
A photograph in the newspaper shows Adeel Ali of the charity Al-Fatiha Global sandwiched between two men with AK47 assault rifles, their faces obscured by a ski mask and scarf and both wearing military-style gear.
The charity has carried out aid work in Syria, Kashmir, Burma and Palestine but concerns were expressed in the tabloid about where donations were ending up. Meanwhile, the Charity Commission confirmed it is now monitoring the Worcester-based charity.
A spokesman for Worcester City Council confirmed that staff from Worcestershire Regulatory Services had identified former taxi driver Adniel Mumtaz Ali as being the man in The Sun photographs described as 'Adeel Ali' in The Sun. Mr Ali was identified by regulatory service staff as the same man from his passport photograph. The city council spokesman said Mr Ali was a taxi driver for Commandery Cars but his licence expired on January 3 and he had not renewed it.
She said: "They have seen a copy of his passport and recognised him as the same man as in The Sun photographs."
Your Worcester News made multiple attempts to contact Mr Ali of after the story appeared on the front page of The Sun newspaper. The newspaper article says the picture was taken last summer when Mr Ali accompanied an aid mission to the war-torn country.
We first emailed Worcester-based Al-Fatiha Global charity, asking for a statement about the article in The Sun and then called at the home of the charity's treasurer in Harrington Road, Dines Green, Worcester but he declined to comment. He said he would pass on the reporter's business card to someone at the charity who was handling press enquiries.
We then visited Mr Ali's home where a woman answering the door at an address in Yew Tree Close, off London Road, said Mr Ali was 'not in'. She was also given a card with reporter's contact details but no-one had made contact with us by the time your Worcester News went to press.
Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell of the all-party British Syria Parliamentary Group, demanded the immediate publication of the charity's accounts and said the charity had "questions to answer".
The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, is now monitoring the charity. A spokesman said in a statement: “The Commission has an ongoing monitoring case into the charity Al-Fatiha Global (registered charity number 1056562) and we continue to engage with the trustees regarding a number of issues including the governance and financial management of the charity."
In a statement, published separately on its website Michelle Russell, head of investigation and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "Sadly there will always be a risk that the high level of trust and confidence that the public have in charities may be abused by others for their own ends. There is a particular risk with the current situation that charities may be used to facilitate or disguise travel to Syria for purposes not connected with providing humanitarian aid."
A West Mercia Police spokesman said: "We are aware of the media interest in this matter but it would be inappropriate for us to make any comment on it at this stage.
"However, in response to the media coverage we will be monitoring the situation to ensure there are no issues within the local community that require our involvement."
Worcester MP Robin Walker also declined to comment until matters have been investigated further.