Trustee resigned from foundation after being convicted of fire-bombing a publisher's home

Abbas Taj left board of Al Ikhlas Foundation after being jailed for the attack, says Charity Commission report

A trustee of an Islamic charity resigned after being convicted of fire-bombing the home of the owner of a publishing company, according to a Charity Commission inquiry report.

Abbas Taj was found guilty in May last year of firebombing the house of Martin Rynja, who ran a publishing company called Gibson Square Books. Two accomplices had earlier pleaded guilty. All three were sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

Rynja was planning to publish a book called The Jewel of Medina, which the three arsonists considered insulting to Islam. No one was hurt in the attack on Rynja's London home.

Taj resigned as a trustee 11 days after being convicted. The commission had suspended Taj as a trustee of the Al Ikhlas Foundation, which offers advice and support to Muslim prisoners and their families, after he was charged over the attack.

The trustees of the foundation, which had an income of £5,000 in 2007/08, had tried to suspend Taj after he was arrested in 2008, but were unable to do so under the terms of the charity's constitution. Taj also refused to sign a letter of resignation they had prepared for him.

During a previous inquiry in 2006, the commission had removed another of the charity's trustees after he was named as a designated person under the United Nations terrorism provisions.

The charity, which uses the working names Window to the Heart, Muslim HIV and Aids Support Service, and Muslim Prisoners Support Group, promised at the time to strengthen its governance arrangements and submit all of its outstanding accounts.

However, the commission's second inquiry, opened after Taj's arrest, found that the trustees had not done everything they had promised. It also uncovered failures to hold formal trustee meetings, keep minutes, call annual general meetings and keep an up-to-date membership list.

The commission concluded that the charity had no properly appointed trustees because its constitution required them to be elected at an AGM and to sign the executive committee's minute book.

The commission was also highly critical of the trustees' level of engagement with the regulator, which it said was poor, "given the serious nature of the issues under investigation".

Its inquiry report says it had to use its powers several times to obtain information and compel trustees to attend meetings. Even then, one trustee failed to attend, without explanation.

The commission has directed the charity to carry out a number of actions to formalise the appointment of its trustees and to strengthen its management and administration. The commission will monitor the charity's compliance.

"Failure to comply may result in the commission concluding that the charity is unable to operate constitutionally and consideration could be given to removing it from the register of charities on the grounds that it has spontaneously dissolved and no longer exists as a legal entity," the inquiry report concludes.

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