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Yemen

‘Global terrorist’ seeks a sit-down at U.S. Embassy

Humayqani wants his day in court

Abdel Wahab al-Humayqani is seen on Feb. 2, 2014 in Sanaa, Yemen. Humayqani was labeled a global terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department in December. He denies the accusation, insists he opposes al-Qaida and argues that the U.S. is doing more to stoke terrorism than to stop it. Illustrates YEMEN (category i), by Abigail Hauslohner (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Abigail Hauslohner)

Abdel Wahab al-Humayqani is seen on Feb. 2, 2014 in Sanaa, Yemen. Humayqani was labeled a global terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department in December. He denies the accusation, insists he opposes al-Qaida and argues that the U.S. is doing more to stoke terrorism than to stop it. Illustrates YEMEN (category i), by Abigail Hauslohner (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Abigail Hauslohner)

Abd al-Wahhab al-Humayqani has some advice for Washington.

The United States is doing more to stoke terrorism, here in the heartland of al-Qaida’s most active franchise, than to defeat it, he said. What the United States ought to do, he argued, is strengthen Yemen’s state institutions – rather than create enemies by carrying out drone strikes.

“The U.S. can protect itself by cooperating directly with local authorities,” he said in an interview in Yemen.

Take it from a man who might know. In December, the U.S. Treasury Department branded Humayqani, 42, a specially designated global terrorist, freezing his assets and sanctioning anyone who does business with him.

The Treasury accused Humayqani of using his network of Yemen-based charities to funnel money to al-Qaida, placing him “at the center of global support networks that fund and facilitate terrorism.” Humayqani denies all of it. He said his charities benefit “orphans, mosques and poor families,” not al-Qaida. “My personal stance is against al-Qaida operations, because they kill outside the law,” he said.

It may be no surprise that a person who is the subject of sanctions dismisses the charges against him. But what makes Humayqani’s case slightly more puzzling, and potentially awkward for the United States, is that he says he is willing to meet with U.S. officials – he claims to have requested a meeting at the U.S. Embassy; the embassy declined to comment – and even face a court of law.

“I don’t have any objections to going on trial here in Yemen to defend myself against any charges – even if it’s from the American Treasury,” he said, speaking in the lobby of a five-star hotel that is frequented by politicians and diplomats. His life is hardly that of a terrorist, he said.

“I’m the secretary general of a political party, and I live here in Sanaa,” he said, as two politicians from another party stopped to greet him with kisses. “I’m a member of the National Dialogue,” he added, referring to a partially U.S.-sponsored effort to bridge divides among Yemeni political parties, tribes and activists.

Humayqani suggested that the U.S. government consider an alternative counterterrorism policy.

“Support the Yemeni government through a national project that would face al-Qaida,” he said. Cease drone strikes and develop a reconciliation plan whereby militants would turn in their weapons. But he acknowledged it would not be so simple.

“Not all of them will give up their weapons. But this way you give those who are willing to leave al-Qaida a chance to become a citizen again and live a normal life. Those who don’t will lose the public’s sympathy,” he said.

Separately, he said, he would be “very grateful” if the United States would drop its charges. “It has affected me financially and psychologically.”

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