Egypt's anger over UK 'asylum'

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The Independent Online
An Egyptian Islamist, accused by Egypt of attempted assassination, claimed yesterday that Britain is ready to offer him political asylum - just days after the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, accused Britain of allowing terrorists to flourish.

Yasser el-Serri said yesterday that he had heard that his asylum application would be approved "very soon". The Home Office confirmed that an application for asylum has been made, but said that "no final decision has been taken".

President Mubarak complained at the weekend of "people who carried out crimes and who were sentenced [in Egypt], who live on British land." He blamed the Luxor killings, in which 58 tourists died last week, on the soft policies of the UK.

Mr el-Serri was convicted of involvement in an assassination attempt on the Egyptian prime minister in 1993, in which a five-year-old girl died. He has denied involvement.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has pledged to make it more difficult for extremist groups to raise funds in the UK. He said this week: "We already have tough anti-terrorism laws, and we intend to strengthen these further."

British officials insisted that they did not want to be "drawn into a war of words" with the Egyptian government. But there would undoubtedly be such a war, if Mr el-Serri is indeed granted asylum.

President Mubarak has singled him out for criticism, asking "How can [the British] give him shelter there? How can this happen?"

Mr el-Serri retorted: "I say to Mubarak: 'My dear sir, you are lying and glossing things over.' I talk only. My jihad is through the word."