Quilliam must take care over its funds

After our article last week about the importance of saving the anti-extremist think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, from closure, following Home Office cuts, the JC was contacted by a source close to government, warning us off.

In particular, it urged us to look closely at the relationship between Noman Benotman, a former Libyan jihadi now working as a senior analyst at Quilliam, and Saif al-Islam, the son of the Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi.

Before joining Quilliam last year, Mr Benotman worked closely with Saif on a "de-radicalisation" programme to rehabilitate members of the extremist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group held in Gaddafi's prisons.

Quillliam has since confirmed that it had received no funding from Libya and that Mr Benotman has not met Saif al-Islam since working at Quilliam.

On Monday, following concerns raised by the JC, Mr Benotman explained that he had acted in his private capacity as an intermediary between the LIFG and the Libyan government. He said: "For many years Saif al-Islam presented himself to many people, including myself, as a reformer and a moderate. It is now clear that he is no such thing. He has utterly betrayed those who took his words at face value and has shown himself to be just as bad as his father, Colonel Gaddafi. The international community should consider a broad democratic intervention to help the Libyan people to achieve their main goals - the removal of the Gaddafi regime and the establishment of their own democratic government."

On Tuesday, supporters of Quilliam in parliament urged ministers to agree a £150,000 transitional grant to help the organisation survive for the next year while it pursues further funding. Former Home Office minister Paul Goggins led the debate and his backing for Quilliam was echoed by former Communities Minster Hazel Blears and fomer Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said that Quilliam had received £1.2m of Home Office funding over the past three years under its anti-extremist Prevent programme. It had also received £1.5m in Foreign Office project funding. It had always been the intention to reduce core government grants to Quilliam; it was the government's view that it now needed to look for other streams of funding.

In doing so, however, the Quilliam Foundation needs to continue to be very careful indeed where it turns for cash. Its work is too important to risk contamination by dirty money.

    Last updated: 12:18pm, March 17 2011