Mobs `threat to dissident's safety' Fears raised over dissident's safet y

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The Independent Online

Home Affairs Correspondent

Violent mobs will stop the Saudi dissident Muhammad Al-Masari entering Dominica if the Government persists with its plans to deport him to the Caribbean island, a court was told yesterday.

John O'Connor, a former Scotland Yard Flying Squad commander and now a security consultant, said he believed Dr Masari - ordered out of Britain amid claims that the Government was protecting huge Saudi arms deals - would be in danger.

Giving evidence on the third day of Dr Masari's appeal against deportation, Mr O'Connor said he had visited the island to compile a security assessment. "It was clear to me that fears were running high and there was a very volatile reaction to the notion that Professor Masari, in their words, was being `dumped in their country'," he said.

"Every single person I spoke to - every taxi driver, every person I spoke to in the bars - was against Professor Masari coming."

Mr O'Connor, who is director of London-based Europol Associates Limited, said there was talk of a violent demonstration - orchestrated by the opposition parties on the island - to meet him at the airport. "They would physically prevent him from leaving the aircraft and, if they couldn't do that, physically prevent him from leaving the airport," he said. "I don't think the police force have sufficient manpower and equipment to offer him long-term protection."

Cross-examining Mr O'Connor, Stephen Richards, counsel for the Home Office, said the Dominicans were angry about the arrangements between the two governments - his deportation had been alleged to be linked to aid and trade with the Caribbean island - and was not directed at Dr Masari personally.

He accused Mr O'Connor of producing a "slanted" report directed to trying to show Professor Masari would be in danger and of "putting a gloss" on the situation on the island.

But Mr O'Connor insisted: "My professional view is that he would be in danger."

Dr Masari has told the appeal how he was subject to six months of torture in detention in Saudi after setting up a dissident group. On his release he fled to the UK in 1994, claiming asylum. The Government has never actually considered his claim for refugee status, instead deciding earlier this year to send him to Dominica.

Home Office ministers have acknowledged the deportation order was influenced by the need to maintain good relations with the Saudis. His activities against his home country while in Britain - alleging corruption and calling for a transition to Islamic rule - have infuriated the Saudi royal family, who have threatened to withhold lucrative business deals.

Britain stands to benefit by up to pounds 20bn from the al-Yamamah arms deal and British companies are major investors in the desert kingdom.