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."
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz 'sought treatment for eyesight problems'
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Yemen crisis: Saudi Arabia ready for long campaign against Houthi rebels across the border
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...