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The Mysterious Achmed Huber: Friend to Hitler, Allah . . . and Bin Laden?

by Kevin Coogan

On Novem­ber 7, 2001, the U.S gov­ern­men­t’s Office of the Coor­di­na­tor of Coun­tert­er­ror­ism issued a list of some 62 orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als sus­pect­ed of involve­ment in ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, and in par­tic­u­lar with Osama bin-Laden’s Al Qae­da net­work. Num­ber 56 on the list was Achmed Albert Friedrich Armand Huber, a for­mer Swiss jour­nal­ist with close ties both to Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists and far-right extrem­ists. A long­time con­vert to Islam, the 74-year-old Huber was cit­ed by the gov­ern­ment for his pres­ence on the five-man man­ag­ing com­mit­tee of Nada Man­age­ment, a Lugano-based finan­cial insti­tu­tion, which was known as Al Taqwa (Fear of God) Man­age­ment pri­or to March 2001. Al Taqwa was specif­i­cal­ly placed on the list due to sus­pi­cions that it may have played a key role in laun­der­ing mon­ey for bin Laden. A few hours before the offi­cial announce­ment from Wash­ing­ton, police offi­cials raid­ed Al Taqwa’s offices in Switzer­land and Liecht­en­stein, as well as Huber’s home in Muri, a sub­urb of Bern, and the homes of Youssef Nada and Ali Ghaleb Him­mat, two oth­er Al Taqwa direc­tors who were also on the U.S. list. Al Taqwa’s accounts were frozen as well. A few weeks lat­er, on Novem­ber 29, Ital­ian inves­ti­ga­tors shut down a Milan-based Islam­ic Cul­tur­al Cen­ter sus­pect­ed of being Al Qaeda’s logis­ti­cal cen­ter for Euro­pean oper­a­tions. The Cen­ter’s key finan­cial sup­port­er, Ahmed Idris Nasred­din, a wealthy busi­ness­man and Kuwait­’s for­mer hon­orary con­sul in Milan, was yet anoth­er Al Taqwa direc­tor. Final­ly, in ear­ly Jan­u­ary of 2002, Al Taqwa announced that it was clos­ing its doors for good.

The clos­ing of Al Taqwa’s doors, how­ev­er, has done lit­tle to elim­i­nate inter­est in Huber’s own ties to Islam­ic extrem­ism. Short­ly after Sep­tem­ber 11th, Huber him­self drew atten­tion to a pos­si­ble Al Taqwa link to bin Laden when he stat­ed that while attend­ing an Islam­ic con­fer­ence in Beirut, he had encoun­tered some of bin Laden’s cadre, whom he described as “very dis­crete, well-edu­cat­ed, high­ly intel­li­gent peo­ple — an entire­ly dif­fer­ent qual­i­ty than ear­li­er.” Huber also described 9/11 as an act of “counter-ter­ror” against the World Trade Cen­ter, a “tow­er of god­less­ness,” and the Pen­ta­gon, “a sym­bol of Satan.” He denied, how­ev­er, any finan­cial deal­ings with bin Laden and stressed that Al Taqwa was strict­ly involved in financ­ing devel­op­ment projects in Third World coun­tries. In a Sep­tem­ber 20, 2001 inter­view with the Swiss pub­li­ca­tion FACTS, Huber claimed that attempts to link Al Taqwa to bin Laden were “an inven­tion of the Mossad.”

To those famil­iar with Huber, his state­ments regard­ing Sep­tem­ber 11th were hard­ly sur­pris­ing. Born in Freiburg, Switzer­land, in 1927 to Protes­tant par­ents, Huber’s pen­chant for polit­i­cal extrem­ism began in the late 1950s when, as a mem­ber of the Swiss Social­ist Par­ty, he helped shel­ter a group of Mus­lims who had come to Switzer­land to buy weapons for the Alger­ian strug­gle against French rule. Huber was so impressed by his con­ver­sa­tions with them that he began study­ing Islam. He then made sha­ha­da (the pro­fes­sion of faith in Islam) at an Islam­ic cen­ter in Gene­va found­ed by the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Huber, how­ev­er, was warned by Fathi el-Dhib, Egyp­t’s then-ambas­sador to Switzer­land (whose sec­re­tary Huber would lat­er mar­ry), that the Nass­er gov­ern­ment was hos­tile to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. He rec­om­mend­ed that Huber make a sec­ond sha­ha­da in Egypt, which Huber did in Feb­ru­ary 1962 at Cairo’s famous Al-Ahzar Uni­ver­si­ty.

After spend­ing more time in the Mid­dle East, Huber aban­doned his ear­li­er pro-Israeli views with a vengeance. He told the French inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Pierre Péan that in 1965 he began to accept the views of the Egypt­ian-based Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Hus­sei­ni, who gave Huber “a total­ly dif­fer­ent ver­sion” of the his­to­ry and nature of the Third Reich. The Grand Mufti knew Hitler per­son­al­ly and active­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Axis pow­ers in World War II. (The Mufti was even respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the Bosn­ian-based 13th Waf­fen-SS Divi­sion that was com­posed of Mus­lim recruits.) Huber fur­ther told Péan that, while he was in Egypt, he also grew close to Johann von Leers, a fanat­i­cal Jew hater, for­mer Nazi Pro­pa­gan­da Min­istry offi­cial, and the Grand Mufti’s good friend. Leers had relo­cat­ed to Egypt in the mid-1950s, where he con­vert­ed to Islam and changed his name to Omar Amin von Leers. He remained in Cairo until his death in 1965, help­ing to direct Nasser’s pro­pa­gan­da appa­ra­tus, which reg­u­lar­ly churned out Nazi-like anti-Semit­ic pro­pa­gan­da through­out the Arab world.

Back in Switzer­land, Huber next became close friends with the Swiss banker François Genoud, whom Huber recalls first meet­ing in “pro-Arab asso­ci­a­tions.” Best known for fund­ing Klaus Bar­bi­e’s legal defense team, Genoud held the legal copy­right to writ­ings by Hitler, Goebbels, and Mar­tin Bor­mann. Genoud, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 1996, is also believed to have played a key role in the post­war man­age­ment of Nazi funds. In the late 1960s he also worked close­ly with rad­i­cal Pales­tin­ian groups, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine (PFLP). Along with orga­niz­ing legal sup­port for cap­tured PFLP mil­i­tants, he even helped coor­di­nate the PFLP’s hijack­ing of a Lufthansa Boe­ing 747 en route from Del­hi to Aden. Through his ties to the PFLP leader Dr. Wad­di Had­dad (who affec­tion­ate­ly dubbed him “Sheikh François”), Genoud befriend­ed Ilich Ramirez Sánchez, bet­ter known as “Car­los the Jack­al.” Both men remained in close con­tact right up to Genoud’s death.

At the same time that Genoud was devel­op­ing close ties to the left­ist PFLP, Huber was active­ly pro­mot­ing pro-Arab views inside the Swiss left. While work­ing as a Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic jour­nal­ist whose beat was the Swiss par­lia­ment, he became involved with the “Bern Non­con­formists.” The Non­con­formists were a mix of 1960s coun­ter­cul­ture activists, poets, painters, and New Left­ists. Inside the Non­con­formists, Huber used left­ist rhetoric to push an anti-Amer­i­can, anti-Israeli, and strong­ly neu­tral­ist line. In the 1970s, how­ev­er, he found it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to oper­ate inside the Left. The Swiss Social­ist Par­ty final­ly expelled Huber in 1994 for “Khome­in­is­mus, Anti-Fem­i­nin­is­mus und Kon­takt mit Rech­tradikalen [far right­ists].”

Huber’s state­ments regard­ing Sep­tem­ber 11th reflect a broad­er con­sen­sus inside the far right. They also echo the remarks of his friend Horst Mahler, a for­mer leader of the far-left ter­ror­ist group, the Rote Armee Frak­tion (RAF; Red Army Fac­tion, also known as the Baader/Meinhof Gang), who is today a lead­ing spokesman for the far-right Nation­aldemokratis­che Partei Deutsch­land (NPD). Short­ly after the WTC attack, Mahler issued a state­ment enti­tled “Inde­pen­dence Day live.” In it, he argued that 9/11 “marked the end of the Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry, the end of glob­al cap­i­tal­ism,” and with it, the end of the sec­u­lar “Jah­wah-Cult of Mam­monism.” Huber is also a pop­u­lar speak­er at NPD events. In Octo­ber 2000, for exam­ple, he addressed the sev­enth “Euro­pean con­gress” of the NPD’s youth orga­ni­za­tion, Junge Nation­aldemokrat­en (JN), on the top­ic “Islam and the New Right.” On Sep­tem­ber 8, 2001, a few days before the WTC attack, he lec­tured on “Israel and the Mus­lim World” to anoth­er NPD-spon­sored gath­er­ing in Sax­ony that attract­ed well over 1,000 rad­i­cal right­ists. The Sep­tem­ber issue of the NPD pub­li­ca­tion Deutsche Stimme also car­ried a lengthy inter­view with Huber (con­duct­ed before 9/11) in which he praised the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion for not hav­ing any “Jew­ish Zion­ist” advi­sors. “That’s very impor­tant for us,” he remarked. Huber’s friend­ly feel­ings towards George, Jr. changed rad­i­cal­ly after he was pub­licly iden­ti­fied as a poten­tial ter­ror­ist sup­port­er. “It is for me an hon­or,” he told the press, “to be put on the list from the USA gang­ster regime.”

While until now there has been no “smok­ing gun” direct­ly link­ing Al Taqwa to bin Laden, what is clear is that Al Taqwa is far from an ordi­nary finan­cial insti­tu­tion, even with­out Huber’s pres­ence on its board. Al Taqwa has served for years as a key finan­cial insti­tu­tion for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Found­ed in Egypt in the late 1920s by Has­san al-Ban­na, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood has fought for over 70 years for the for­ma­tion of a pure pan-Islam­ic theo­crat­ic state. Youssef Nada and Ali Ghaleb Him­mat, the two Al Taqwa direc­tors cit­ed along with Huber on the U.S. list, are acknowl­edged long­time Broth­ers. Accord­ing to the Ger­man newsweek­ly Der Spiegel, Him­mat is also the pres­i­dent of the Bavaria-based Islamis­che Gesellschaft Deutsch­lands (IGD: Islam­ic Soci­ety of Ger­many), an orga­ni­za­tion found­ed by the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood that Ger­man author­i­ties con­sid­er an ide­o­log­i­cal breed­ing ground for Islam­ic extrem­ists. Him­mat also serves as a direc­tor of the Gene­va branch of the Inter­na­tion­al Islam­ic Char­i­ta­ble Orga­ni­za­tion (IICO), head­quar­tered in Kuwait. Anoth­er IICO direc­tor, the Qatar-based Youssef al-Qar­dawi, is pres­i­dent of Al Taqwa’s coun­sel of reli­gious advi­sors, which insures that the bank does not vio­late any teach­ings of the Koran. Qar­dawi, a fiery speak­er who is con­sid­ered one of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s top spir­i­tu­al lead­ers, is also an open sup­port­er of Hamas. He even issued a fat­wah declar­ing Hamas sui­cide bombers mar­tyrs and their acts “the high­est form of jihad.” Al Taqwa’s finan­cial involve­ment with Hamas became known after a 1997 scan­dal involv­ing the dis­ap­pear­ance of a large part of Hamas’s trea­sury led to an inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion by Hamas that includ­ed a care­ful exam­i­na­tion of Al Taqwa’s role in the affair.

Inside the Mid­dle East, Egypt has been the most vig­or­ous oppo­nent of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. The Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment has been at war with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood since the ear­ly 1950s, when then Egypt­ian pres­i­dent Gamal Abdul Nass­er banned the group and arrest­ed many of its lead­ers. As an orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to the estab­lish­ment of a pan-Islam­ic state, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood bit­ter­ly opposed Nasser’s sec­u­lar form of pan-Arab nation­al­ism. The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s staunch oppo­si­tion to sec­u­lar nation­al­ism has also attract­ed finan­cial sup­port, par­tic­u­lar­ly from Sau­di Ara­bia. Sau­di funds have also flowed into Al Taqwa’s cof­fers. Huber him­self even boast­ed about Al Taqwa’s Sau­di con­nec­tion to Swiss jour­nal­ist Richard Labévière. Asked by Labévière about Al Taqwa’s finances, Huber replied:

As for the mon­ey, I can­not give details — except for Sau­di Ara­bia, because that will change the bad per­cep­tion peo­ple have of this coun­try. Of course, the gov­ern­ment is under Amer­i­can sur­veil­lance, but the king­dom has the great advan­tage of being a feu­dal state that leaves the great fam­i­lies total free­dom to man­age their oil funds as they wish. That’s great! And today, the Saud­is are very active, the details of their funds that come to the bank are a mat­ter of bank secre­cy.

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s close links to Al Taqwa, it is impor­tant to note, have also been cit­ed as evi­dence of Al Taqwa’s polit­i­cal mod­er­a­tion. This argu­ment asserts that in coun­tries like Egypt, Alge­ria, and Turkey, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood has sup­port­ed the move­ment for polit­i­cal democ­ra­cy pre­cise­ly because the rul­ing regimes in these nations have used anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic mea­sures to pre­vent Islamist par­ties from gain­ing polit­i­cal pow­er. In Egypt, for exam­ple, while the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is still tech­ni­cal­ly banned, it remains that nation’s largest oppo­si­tion par­ty and 17 Broth­ers hold seats in Egyp­t’s par­lia­ment as inde­pen­dents. The Broth­er­hood con­tends that it rep­re­sents the mod­er­ate wing of polit­i­cal Islam as opposed to overt ter­ror­ist groups like Islam­ic Jihad. To the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s crit­ics, how­ev­er, the alleged sharp divi­sion between the “mod­er­ate” Broth­ers and the jihadist mil­i­tants is far from clear.

Even if one accepts the notion that Al Taqwa may have the same high­ly ambigu­ous rela­tion­ship to Islamist ter­ror as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood itself, there can be lit­tle doubt about Huber’s involve­ment with a high­ly vis­i­ble ter­ror­ist regime. While Huber has worked close­ly with the Sun­ni wing of Islam rep­re­sent­ed by the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and Al Taqwa, he has long been a lead­ing sup­port­er of the Shi­ite fun­da­men­tal­ist regime that took pow­er in Iran in 1979 under the lead­er­ship of the Aya­tol­lah Khome­i­ni. Since then, Iran has spon­sored count­less acts of ter­ror­ism, includ­ing the Iran­ian-backed Hezbol­lah move­men­t’s destruc­tion of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon and — it would appear — the sub­se­quent bomb­ing of Israeli’s embassy in Argenti­na. Iran’s con­tin­u­ing use of vio­lence led the U.S. State Depart­ment to iden­ti­fy Iran as “the most active state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism in 2000.”

Huber’s own ties to Iran are hard­ly secret. In 1989, amid a flur­ry of pub­lic­i­ty, he lost his jour­nal­ist posi­tion with the Swiss press group Ringi­er after he open­ly sup­port­ed Iran’s fat­wah con­demn­ing Salman Rushdie to death for his book The Satan­ic Vers­es. Huber’s ser­vices to Iran are so high­ly val­ued that he is report­ed­ly the only Euro­pean Mus­lim ever to give a speech before the tomb of Imam Khome­i­ni. Iran also gives polit­i­cal sanc­tu­ary to Huber’s com­rades in the Holo­caust-denial move­ment and Radio Tehran reg­u­lar­ly broad­casts inter­views with “Holo­caust revi­sion­ists.” Huber is also a promi­nent speak­er at Iran­ian-allied Islam­ic gath­er­ings across the world, includ­ing Amer­i­ca. He even explained how easy it was for him to vis­it the U.S. unde­tect­ed: “Because I was reg­is­tered in all the CIA com­put­ers as Achmed, but my pass­port still remains Albert, I can enter and exit the USA with­out any prob­lem.” Huber has pre­sent­ed talks to pro-Khome­i­ni groups like the Per­sian Speak­ing Group of the Mus­lim Stu­dents’ Asso­ci­a­tion (MSA). At the 27th MSA con­ven­tion held in Chica­go in Decem­ber 1997, for exam­ple, Huber spoke on Islam at two pan­els with Imam Adbul Alim Musa and Sheikh Moham­mad Al-Asi, both of whom are asso­ci­at­ed with the pro-Khome­i­ni Insti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Islam­ic Thought (ICIT). Huber also appeared with both men a year ear­li­er at anoth­er pro-Khome­i­ni con­fer­ence orga­nized by the Mus­lim Par­lia­ment (MP), which was held in Lon­don in Novem­ber 1996 and which adver­tised par­tic­i­pa­tion by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both Hezbol­lah and Hamas.

Even as Huber plays a major role in Islamist net­works, he remains high­ly active inside Europe’s far right elite. Along with a poster of Imam Khome­i­ni and a framed quote from Hitler denounc­ing mod­ern art, Huber’s house con­tains a pho­to of his friend Jörg Haider, Aus­tri­a’s lead­ing elec­to­r­i­al right­ist. But Huber’s most eye-open­ing pic­ture dis­plays both him­self and Genoud at a meet­ing in Spain with Léon Degrelle, a Waf­fen-SS Gen­er­al who Hitler once said he want­ed to adopt as a son. Degrelle, who lived in Spain in order to escape war crimes charges in his native Bel­gium, was a top leader of the post­war ultra right.

Inside Switzer­land, Huber helps direct the Aval­on Gemein­schaft, an elite far right group whose mem­bers include for­mer Waf­fen SS vol­un­teers. Each year Aval­on’s cadre retire to the woods dur­ing the sum­mer sol­stice and con­duct rit­u­al cel­e­bra­tions of Europe’s pagan past. Jürg Frischknecht, a lead­ing expert on the Swiss far right, reports that Aval­on — using the cov­er name “Stu­di­en­gruppe für Geschichte” (His­to­ry Study Group) — reg­u­lar­ly spon­sors lec­tures from lead­ing Holo­caust-deniers, such as France’s Robert Fau­ris­son, that are held at four star hotels in Bern. Huber has also worked tire­less­ly to forge alliances between Euro­pean right­ists and Islamists, telling his fel­low Euro­peans that their “ene­mies are not the Turks, but rather the Amer­i­can and Ger­man politi­cians with an Amer­i­can ‘brain’.” Huber hopes to estab­lish an alliance between the anti-immi­gra­tion Euro­pean right and the Islamists based on the under­stand­ing that once Islamist par­ties take pow­er, large scale Mus­lim emi­gra­tion to the West would end. Huber even orga­nized a meet­ing between Jean-Marie Le Pen, head of France’s largest “nation­al pop­ulist” par­ty, the Front Nation­al, and Huber’s close friend Necmet­tin Erbakan, the head of the now banned Turk­ish Islamist par­ty Refah (Wel­fare), to devel­op a joint posi­tion on immi­gra­tion.

In order to pro­mote clos­er ties between the Euro-right and Islam, Huber reg­u­lar­ly points out to his right­ist com­rades that the Arabs were some of Nazi Ger­many’s strongest sup­port­ers and remain so to this day. In his Sep­tem­ber 2001 inter­view in Deutsche Stimme, for exam­ple, Huber proud­ly report­ed that at a large Pales­tin­ian con­gress held in Tehran, Iran’s supreme reli­gious leader, the Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, pub­licly reject­ed claims by “Zion­ists and Marx­ists” con­cern­ing Ger­man war crimes. Aya­tol­lah Khamenei then stat­ed that Mus­lims saw Ger­many dif­fer­ent­ly both because the Nazis fought against colo­nial pow­ers like Eng­land, France, Bel­gium, and Hol­land and also “because the Third Reich, in the view of Mus­lims, con­tained some inter­est­ing Islam­ic ele­ments,” by which Khamenei was almost cer­tain­ly refer­ring the Grand Mufti’s role in World War II.

Huber has also tried to estab­lish direct orga­ni­za­tion­al links between U.S. and Euro­pean-based “Holo­caust revi­sion­ists” and their Arab allies. Ear­li­er this year, Huber and three of his clos­est col­lab­o­ra­tors, the NPD’s Horst Mahler, Jür­gen Graf (a lead­ing Swiss Holo­caust denier who fled to Iran to avoid serv­ing a 15-month jail sen­tence for his activ­i­ties), and the Swedish-based Ahmed Rami, a for­mer Moroc­can mil­i­tary offi­cer who in 1987 found­ed Radio Islam to dis­sem­i­nate anti-Semit­ic, Holo­caust denial, and pro-Nazi pro­pa­gan­da, teamed up with the Cal­i­for­nia-based Insti­tute for His­tor­i­cal Review (IHR) — the world’s lead­ing “Holo­caust denial” orga­ni­za­tion — to orga­nize an IHR-spon­sored con­fer­ence that was sched­uled to take place in late March in a Hezbol­lah-con­trolled sec­tion of Beirut, Lebanon. Protests from Jew­ish groups, how­ev­er, even­tu­al­ly forced the Lebanese gov­ern­ment to ban the pro­posed gath­er­ing.

Look­ing back on Huber’s career, it seems clear is that he has been most con­cerned with find­ing allies in the Mus­lim world to help him wage war against both Israel and the West. From the late 1950s until the 1970s, he pub­licly cast his lot with sec­u­lar pan-Ara­bists like Nass­er. In the wake of Egyp­t’s mil­i­tary defeats in both the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, and after Nasser’s suc­ces­sor Anwar Sadat signed a peace accord with Israel, Huber dis­cov­ered an even more vir­u­lent form of anti-West­ern fanati­cism in Iran. In 1982, he wrote an essay for a book enti­tled Der Unbekan­nte Islam that still serves to define his polit­i­cal views today. In it, Huber iden­ti­fies the “triple aggres­sion” that he sees direct­ed against Islam. The first aggres­sion, nat­u­ral­ly, is Zion­ism, where­as the sec­ond is Marx­ism, which Huber con­demns both for the Sovi­et inva­sion of Afghanistan as well as for Marx­is­m’s cor­rup­tion of Islam­ic intel­lec­tu­als. He then iden­ti­fies the third and final aggres­sion as “the ‘Amer­i­can Way of Life, which many Mus­lims have felt as specif­i­cal­ly ‘New-York-ish’ and thus essen­tial­ly ‘Jew­ish.’ ”

Clear­ly Huber is con­vinced that the “New-York-ish” Amer­i­can Way of Life is destroy­ing Islam. Now it is the task of inves­ti­ga­tors in both Amer­i­ca and Europe to deter­mine whether or not Huber and his friends in Al Taqwa have used “Islam” to destroy both New York and the Amer­i­can way of life.