Howard admits Saudi pressure over arms deals
Saturday 06 January 1996
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, indicated yesterday that the British Government is expelling the Saudi dissident, Mohammed al-Masari, because his presence in Britain is jeopardising lucrative arms deals with the Saudi royal family.
"I think it's quite well known that the Saudi government was unhappy over the activities of Mr Masari,'' Mr Howard told the Independent. He added: "If there are two ways in which we can comply with our international obligations [on human rights], one of which damages our national interest and the prospects of jobs in Britain, and one way which doesn't, we are perfectly entitled to choose the way which doesn't damage our interests.''
Mr Masari was expelled after the Saudis threatened to tear up arms contracts with British firms worth billions of pounds if the dissident stayed in Britain. A former physics professor, Mr Masari was waging a one-man battle by fax machine against the Saudi royal family, which he accused of corruption.
John Major had twice been asked by the Saudi government, in 1994 and in October 1995, to have Mr Masari removed from the country.
Asked if Dominica - a Caribbean island of 75,000 people whose main crop, bananas, was destroyed last year by a hurricane - had received any incentive to take the dissident, Mr Howard replied: "I can't say anything about that. We are very grateful to Dominica for agreeing to take Masari."
Although Britain has reduced its foreign development aid overall, Dominica's is due to rise 300 per cent this year to pounds 2m.
In Britain, the expulsion order was criticised by human rights groups who accuse the Tory government of jettisoning the rights of free speech and political asylum for weapons contracts. Replying to these protests, Mr Howard said: "We intend to maintain our reputation for tolerance and free speech, but we also intend to insure people don't exploit and abuse these traditional characteristics of British society.''
Mr Howard is pushing for the Government to adopt tighter laws on immigrants seeking political asylum. Many political exiles - among them Sikhs, Kashmiris, Tamils, Iranians and Nigerians - have sought sanctuary in Britain from hostile regimes back home. The decision to expel Mr Masari is seen by many political refugees as an alarming precedent.
The Home Secretary, on a South Asian tour to seek help from Indian and Pakistani officials in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants and heroin into Britain, said taxpayers were spending pounds 200m a year on social security for refugees seeking political asylum.
"Only 4 per cent of these asylum-seekers are found to be genuine refugees,'' Mr Howard said. "They can appeal, but those whose appeals succeed are tiny in number. There's no reason they should be collecting benefits during the very long time - months or even years - it takes for their application to be reviewed."
educationTo mark International Women's Day, Sarah Brown on how charities have brought proper joined-up thinking to the delivery of education
South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
Lammily: Barbie-like doll hits Kickstarter fundraising target in a day
Belle Knox: How a porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Oscar Pistorius trial: Neighbour feared South African athlete would use gun that killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to shoot himself
Top 10 most expensive cities in the world: Singapore named costliest place to live – but what about London?
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
- 1 The future of sex: The first female condoms were derided, mistrusted and shunned - but will their modern counterparts catch on?
- 2 South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
- 3 Study suggests that 'gaydars' are real - at least for women
- 4 Man stabbed with Legend of Zelda Master Sword in serious condition
- 5 First clip of Outkast's Andre 3000 in Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side emerges
£1200 per month: Inspiring Interns: Our client is one of Europes leading mobi...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Founded in 2008 by two Chinese tech entre...
£12000 - £18000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client is a high-end niche t...
£22000 - £25000 per annum, Benefits: Subsidised gym membership, 25 days holiday...