Humza Yousaf, the favorite to become Scotland’s first minister, met with a former senior Hamas commander, the U.K’s Jewish Chronicle reported Thursday.
Yousaf, 37, currently Scottish health secretary for the Scottish National Party, arranged the high-level meeting with Hamas leader Mohammad Sawalha, whose nom de guerre is Abu Obada.
Yousaf, then 22, was working as a parliamentary assistant for Scotland’s first Muslim Scottish member of Parliament, Bashir Ahmad. At the same time, Yousef, along with his cousin Osama Saeed, was running the Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF).
Sawalha’s history was public knowledge, the Jewish news site reported. The BBC in 2006 identified him as having “masterminded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy.”
Before emigrating to the U.K., Sawalha was Hamas’s “military” chief in Judea and Samaria.
Nevertheless, a meeting took place with a Scottish National Party cabinet minister and government officials at the Scottish Parliament in 2008.
Sawalha attended the meeting at Holyrood, a palace used for state occasions, as a representative of Islam Expo, an event funded by a £2 million grant from Qatar and held in London in 2006 and 2008.
Attending the expos run by Sawalha were Sheikh Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a Pakistani politician who had praised the Taliban as “just and honorable men,” and Jenny Tonge, then a Liberal Democrat member of the British Parliament, who said the U.S. Jewish lobby was “making all political parties obey the will of Israel.”
The Jewish Chronicle queried Yousaf about the meeting and whether he knew about Sawalha’s background. Yousaf didn’t respond to the questions, saying only he had a “strong track record of standing up against every form of hatred, including antisemitism.”
Lord Alex Carlile, a former British MP and independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “Yousaf must address the circumstances in which he judged it appropriate to have close contact with Hamas supporters. He has to face these questions head-on were he to become first minister.”
A senior Labour Party source said: “If these allegations are correct then Yousaf will come under serious pressure to justify the company he has kept and the interests he has represented.
Yousaf has urged for “Palestine to be recognized as an independent state,” called for an arms embargo against Israel, and said Gaza is a place “where people are starving and dying a slow death.”