Federal prosecutors have been warned by Switzerland’s highest court to decide by May 31 whether to pursue a case against a company suspected of terror links.
The Federal Court in Bellinzona accepted an appeal from the director of Nada Management, accused by the United States of helping fund the al-Qaeda network.
The company, run by Egyptian-born Youssef Nada and formerly known as al-Taqwa, has been under scrutiny since October 2001. It went into liquidation in December that year after business dried up.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the firm and its two directors gave financial backing to the groups implicated in the September 11 attacks.
Swiss officials froze 24 Nada bank accounts and searched company officials' homes and offices on November 7, 2001 – the same day that the organisation was accused by Washington of financing terrorist acts.
Nada and the other director, Ali Ghaleb Himmat, were questioned. Both men repeatedly denied any connection with Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.
The United States claims the company has ties to bin Laden. It is on Washington’s list of organisations accused of helping to fund terrorism.
Lack of substance
But documents supplied by the Americans to back up their allegations have failed so far to give the Swiss case any substance.
The prosecutors’ own investigations have also not revealed anything substantial and no decision has been made whether to press charges and launch court proceedings.
The court ruled that the prosecutors should have given some further reasons for the allegations made against Nada Management and its director in 2001.
It added that Youssef Nada, who has been demanding an end to proceedings since 2002, should have been advised of specific charges.
The court also said there was no reason for the prosecutor’s office to have taken so long to decide whether to hand the case over to a tribunal. It criticised the prosecutors too for claiming late last year that judicial proceedings were about to be launched.
The prosecutor’s office has been sentenced to pay SFr3,000 ($2,514) in damages to Youssef Nada.
swissinfo with agencies
September 15, 2001: the federal prosecutor launches an investigation following the attacks in the United States.
October 24, 2001: the investigation is extended to the activities of Nada Management.
November 7, 2001: Swiss police raid the company's premises and seize documents.
May 2004: the investigation is still in its preliminary phase, with no judicial proceedings launched.
Prosecutors have been given until the end of the month to decide whether to pursue the case.