Fmr. Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal: Sudan Offered To Extradite Bin Laden To The U.S., Saudi Arabia; Al-Jazeera Depicted Him As A Big Hero, Enabled Him To Reach Young People; He Had Ties With Iran
In an October 13, 2021 interview on Channel 1 (Saudi Arabia), former Saudi intelligence chief and Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki Al-Faisal spoke about Osama Bin Laden, his media presence, and his relationships with various countries. Prince Al-Faisal said that in 1996, the Sudanese had wanted to extradite Bin Laden to the Saudis on the condition that they do not try or interrogate him. He said King Abdullah refused because this would constitute a violation of shari’a law. He also said that at the time, the United States said they did not have enough evidence to try Bin Laden and so refused to have Bin Laden extradited to the U.S.
Later in the interview, Prince Al-Faisal said that he does not think Osama Bin Laden had ties with any intelligence organizations, and that his presence in the media helped make him a more significant figure. He gave the example of the Qatari Al-Jazeera news network, which he said portrayed him as a “big hero” and an “eminent sheikh” and enabled him to spread his “poison” to a young audience. Prince Al-Faisal also voiced his suspicion that Osama Bin Laden had had ties with Iran, because his sons found refuge in the country during the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2003. For more information about Prince Turki Al-Faisal, see MEMRI TV clips Nos. 8790, 7307, 6494, 5565, 4064, 3246, and 3110.
Interviewer: “In your book, you wrote that in 1996, the Sudanese offered to hand Osama Bin Laden over to the Americans, but the Americans said that they did not have enough evidence to put him on trial.”
Turki Al-Faisal: “Yes, this is what happened. I do not know why the Americans said this, but as I said, President Al-Bashir had made this offer to King Abdullah, before he offered it to the Americans.”
Interviewer: “What went down between them?”
Turki Al-Faisal: “I was not present, but from what I heard from the officials, as I mentioned in my book, President Al-Bashir said to King Abdullah: ‘We want to hand Bin Laden over to you,’ or something along these lines. So King Abdullah said to [Al-Bashir]: ‘By all means, we will make the arrangements.’ Then [Al-Bashir] said: ‘But I have one condition: That you do not put him on trial or interrogate him if we extradite him.’ King Abdullah said to him: ‘We cannot do that. We abide by the shari’a, and no one is above the shari’a. He will be held accountable according to what he did.’ [Al-Bashir] became silent and did not repeat the offer to King Abdullah. Afterwards, they tried to hand Bin Laden over to the Americans. I think this was mentioned by President Clinton in his memoirs… At the time, America did not have evidence proving Bin Laden’s activity against the U.S. So even if he had been handed over to them, they could not have tried him, according to their official position.”
Interviewer: “In your book, you raised a number of issues. Bin Laden had a long interview with an American channel, the BBC… Sorry, the BBC is British… [Bin Laden] has a media presence. He received his first satellite phone from London. His communiques were broadcast from his office in London. Media propaganda… You said that Bin Laden was an unsophisticated man, whose influence stemmed only from the media.”
Turki Al-Faisal: “No doubt. Look at how Al-Jazeera in Qatar promoted him. They made him out to be a big hero and an eminent sheikh. What else did they say about him? These two will suffice. Through [Al-Jazeera], he found a platform [to reach] young people, not only among us, but all over the world, so he can sway them towards his beliefs, which are against humanity in its entirety – not only against Muslims, in my opinion. It’s like a person using a certain medium to spread his poison, and then the medium he is using accepts and even promotes his actions.”
Interviewer: “Through your work on the Afghan file, did you find that Osama Bin Laden had ties with any secret service in the region?”
Turki Al-Faisal: “No, not in the strict sense of the word.”
Interviewer: “Maybe facilitating his activity…”
Turki Al-Faisal: “But there is no doubt that he had ties to Al-Jazeera TV. I mean, where was Bin Laden’s first video broadcast? It was broadcast on Al-Jazeera. Can Al-Jazeera be considered a secret service? Maybe. But it presents itself as a media organ that calls for various things. This was the nature of the ties between them. From reading the documents that were published after Bin Laden was killed – about his dealings with Iran, for example – I believe that he had ties with the Iran’s [security] services.”
Interviewer: “His sons were in Iran.”
Turki Al-Faisal: “Yes. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan, the first thing that Bin Laden did was to send his family to Iran. He did not send them even to Pakistan. This means that there must have been ties with them.”