Saudi militant pulls plug on website in advance of Home Office crackdown

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dr al-Massari, a prominent critic of the Saudi Arabian royal family, oversees a website which is routinely used by al-Qa'ida-linked Islamist terrorists to post videos of suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq. The former physician, who was granted asylum in Britain in 1984, is widely believed to be high on police and intelligence service lists of Islamist militants they want to deport in the wake of the 7 July bombings in London.

His Arabic language website, tajdeed.net, one of a number of "jihadi" websites, is expected to be targeted under sweeping new anti-terrorism powers, outlined by the Prime Minister last month, to crack down on those who "glorify" terrorism. In an attempt to sidestep possible prosecution, Dr al-Massari has now posted an "obituary" on the internet, claiming his site has been a victim of the "murder of freedom of opinion and expression by the oppressive regime led by Tony Blair, the liar and well-known war criminal".

He said he had had no contact with the police or Home Office, just "media reports and noise" about his activities. As a result, he has suspended tajdeed.net until he can clarify his position in Britain.

Dr al-Massari insists the site is simply a venue for legitimate political dissent. In interviews, he has defended attacks on British and US troops in Iraq.

So far, the Saudi has not been singled out for deportation as part of the wave of expulsions promised by the Prime Minister and Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary.

Mr Clarke said last week there would be arrests and deportations "very soon", as he unveiled new powers to expel foreigners for "unacceptable behaviour".

Dr al-Massari said yesterday that he was "not concerned" about being expelled from the UK. While he predicted he would contest deportation, he hinted he could leave Britain voluntarily. "London is not God's heaven on earth, it's just like any other place," he said.

It is understood, however, that the Home Office has avoided trying to sign any deals with Saudi Arabia under which Riyadh would promise not to torture or execute people deported from the UK, which would breach legally binding human rights treaties signed by Britain. Ministers have already won such a deal from Jordan, leading to the attempted deportation of the Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada. Observers believe the UK has decided not to add Saudi Arabia to the list because it would be politically too difficult.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has begun extradition proceedings for an Algerian who was arrested last week in Thailand for possessing 180 fake passports.

Atamnia Yacine, 33, was detained in Bangkok last Wednesday on forgery and visa charges after the French and Spanish passports were discovered in a raid.

A Thai newspaper said that Mr Yacine was connected to the 7 July bombings, claims which the Metropolitan police refused to confirm.