Saudis plotted to kill me, says dissident

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THE Arab dissident at the centre of the human rights-for-arms- orders controversy, Mohammed al-Masari, said yesterday that the Saudi government had plotted to kill him in Britain.

It also emerged yesterday that a colleague of Mr al-Masari was put to death in Saudi Arabia five months ago.

At a press conference in London, Mr al-Masari said he had told Special Branch three times last year of rumours that an attempt would be made on his life.

He seized on a leaked memo from the Vickers arms company, which is bidding for a multi-million-pound tank order from Saudi Arabia, that revealed how industry, the British Government and spy agencies were working to silence the asylum-seeker.

In the memo, Sir Colin Chandler, Vickers' chief executive, appears to discuss the possibility of the Saudi monarchy taking action against Mr al-Masari in London if he stayed in Britain.

"Direct Saudi intervention against him could be difficult because he is . . . the son of a leading cleric in the kingdom," the memo says, before referring to an "attempt to stifle him personally".

The British Government wants to deport Mr al-Masari to the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica after pressure from Saudi Arabia and arms companies.

The colleague of Mr al-Masari was put to death last August. The Saudi authorities say they beheaded Abdullah al-Hudhayf in Riyadh for throwing acid at a policeman and for links with Mr al-Masari's Committee for Defence of Legitimate Rights.

But Mr al-Masari said that nobody saw the beheading and that his colleague died under torture. Amnesty International added that Mr al-Hudhayf had not been allowed lawyers or legal advice at his trial. His family had not been allowed to see his body after the execution.

It was revealed last week that the Government quadrupled aid to Dominica just before the island accepted Mr al-Masari; that Andrew Green, the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was on the board of Vickers; and that British arms companies and the Saudi monarchy had pressed the Government to deport Mr al-Masari.

The Foreign Office yesterday denied any conflict of interest between Mr Green's work for Vickers and for the civil service but said he would resign from the company board before going to Saudi Arabia in March.

Further reports, page 2

Ian Jack, page 5

Robert Fisk, page 21