Judge tells Howard to reconsider Masari case

HEATHER MILLS

Home Affairs Correspondent

A judge yesterday disrupted the Government's "arms for bananas" deals, which would have seen an outspoken Saudi dissident and asylum seeker deported to Dominica.

In a damning criticism of ministers' handling of the case of Muhammad al-Masari, the Home Secretary Michael Howard was ordered to reconsider the Islamic fundamentalist's claim for asylum. It was the latest in a series of embarrassing court rebukes for the Home Secretary.

Judge David Pearl, the chief immigration adjudicator sitting at the Immigration Appellate Authority in north London, accused ministers of an unprecedented attempt to "circumvent for diplomatic and trade reasons" its obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees. And he questioned whether its actions were "within the humanitarian spirit with which the convention and asylum legislation should be interpreted".

He ruled that the only way to ensure the "highest standards of fairness" to Dr Masari and in the public interest was for Mr Howard to consider his asylum claim in full - within a month.

The Government had been hoping to send Dr Masari to the Caribbean, thus protecting at least pounds 20bn of arms deals - apparently under threat because the Saudi government does not believe the United Kingdom should give refuge to one of its most vociferous opponents.

Dominica, an independent territory, had agreed to take the 49 year-old as a refugee - the country's first - after they were told by government officials "one good deal deserves another". According to Eddison James, the Prime Minister of Dominica, an increase in aid from the UK to the Island and a guaranteed trade in its cash crop, bananas, were at issue.

But yesterday Judge Pearl thwarted the arrangement by upholding Dr Masari's claim that Dominica could not be regarded as a safe haven. He said the history of Dominica illustrated "political vulnerability, such that pressure placed on it to expel him to Saudi Arabia may not be capable of being resisted".

During the three-day hearing Dr Masari described being beaten and tortured after being thrown into prison for helping to found an Islamic fundamentalist political party in Saudi, fiercely critical of the ruling Royal Family. He said he remained at risk of reprisals.

Last night the Home Office said Mr Howard was considering an appeal. But this is the second time that the Home Secretary has been requested by an adjudicator to properly consider Dr Masari claim - indicating that an appeal may fail. His apparent decision to ignore that first ruling last year is already the subject of a judicial review.

A jubilant Dr Masari said the ruling gave him a better chance of staying in Britain while George Galloway, the Labour MP and organiser of the Masari Must Stay campaign, said the judgement was "a grave condemnation of the Major government".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea