A taint on Britain's honour

Mohammed al-Masari asks: Why are they moving heaven and earth to send me into exile?
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The Independent Online
People differ in religion, background and culture but every sensible human being agrees with basic values. These values separate us from baser animals, and are generally accommodated under what is called human rights.

Britain has always been in the forefront of protecting such rights, has usually been the most difficult country to influence and has preserved the basic laws that protect the individual. In the US, the Far East and elsewhere in Europe we have seen signs of governments bending to outside interference, but not until this week has such a thing been seen here.

Furthermore the Home Office has admitted that the decision to deport me was the result of a fine balancing act. It is unfortunate that the scales were tipped by political interference, which in common law would have been called fraud or corruption. The scales of justice over the High Court could never have been tipped the way the Government's scales were.

Our lawyers were shocked to see the first clear-cut evidence of a Home Office decision based on political leverage. They always believed all such decisions were totally independent and reached with no one but the individual concerned in mind. But the letter received from the Home Office suggests my case has not been dealt with in this way. A lot of brain power and hours must have gone into coming up with such a very shameful recommendation. The Home Office spokesman admitted that it was the first time that this particular section and paragraph had been used. When answering our lawyers' questions, the official sounded very complacent and considered this a fait accompli with no real hope of appeal. Surely it would have been much more sensible if all this time and effort had been put to use in finding a way to persuade the regime in Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record.

To what extent are democratic countries like Britain prepared to sacrifice their principles? Any such sacrifice will end in a cascade of denial of rights for all. The only guarantee of the long-term interests of us all is general respect for those principles. Britain could never have been in the centre stage of the world for such a long time if she had been a totalitarian state. Is the British tradition of giving a home to freedom fighters to be dashed against the rocks? Freedom of speech used to be among the most valued of all traditions and rights but this has now evaporated - and is no doubt the first of many evaporations. The British government's anxiety over the need to defend so-called interests in Saudi Arabia must be challenged. These interests are the interests of a few businessmen who stand to make a few millions fast. This can only be achieved by dealing with a dictator whose human rights records and corruption have been attacked by Amnesty.

The proper interests Britain should be defending in Saudi Arabia are a stable, elected, accountable leadership providing broad benefits to all members of the community through involvement in a long-term infrastructure development and country planning, rather than white elephant projects.

On the one hand the Saudi government has been constantly campaigning and stepping up the pressure to have me deported. They have done this by lobbying, phoning and writing to everyone they could think of. The amazing thing is that all the while they have called me and my colleagues "non-entities". Why then are they moving heaven and hell to remove me to Dominica?

The writer is leader of the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights.

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