Government refuses to release report into Saudi Arabia’s funding of Islamist extremism in UK

Home Secretary accused of ‘putting our so-called friendship with Saudi Arabia above our values’ as she cites national security for keeping investigation secret

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
@joncstone
Wednesday 12 July 2017 17:11
comments
Theresa May with King Salman (left) during a visit to Saudi Arabia in April
Theresa May with King Salman (left) during a visit to Saudi Arabia in April

The Government will not release its report into the extent of Saudi Arabian and other foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain, the Home Secretary has said.

In a statement released to Parliament on Wednesday, Amber Rudd said she would not be releasing the report, commissioned by former prime minister David Cameron, on “national security” grounds.

“Having taken advice, I have decided against publishing the classified report produced during the review in full,” Ms Rudd said.

“This is because of the volume of personal information it contains and for national security reasons. We will be inviting Privy Councillors from the opposition parties to the Home Office to have access to the classified report on Privy Council terms.”

The Government has previously said it hoped the report could be released in some form. The decision comes two days after the High Court ruled the Government was not breaking the law by continuing to license arms sales to Saudi Arabia – the state thought to be the focus of the report.

In a summary, the Government said the main findings of the report were that Islamist extremist organisations were generally funded by “small, anonymous public donations” but that “for a small number of organisations with which there are extremism concerns, overseas funding is a significant source of income”.

The summary did not explain which countries were involved in the funding.

The decision not to release the report was immediately condemned by opposition parties. Diane Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary, said there was “strong suspicion” that the report was being “suppressed” to placate Saudi Arabia.

“The public has a right to know if any governments, foreign or domestic organisations or individuals are funding extremism in this country, and what the UK government intends to do to prevent that,” she said.

“Of course security intelligence should not be compromised, but this is easily achieved by redaction and other means. The Government would never have commissioned this report if it considered this problem insurmountable.

“Instead, there is a strong suspicion this report is being suppressed to protect this Government’s trade and diplomatic priorities, including in relation to Saudi Arabia. The only way to allay those suspicions is to publish the report in full.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Britain could “not tackle the root causes of terrorism” without “full disclosure of the states and institutions that fund extremism in our country”.

“It seems like the government, yet again, is putting our so-called friendship with Saudi Arabia above our values,” he said.

“This shoddy decision is the latest in a long line where we have put profit over principle.”

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said the “refusal to publish this report, and this utterly vague statement, are completely unacceptable”.

“The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from, leaving the Government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK,” she said.

The Prime Minister last week said she “looked forward to deepening our close bilateral ties” with Saudi Arabia, while Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said earlier this year that he wants British companies to sell more weapons to the country.

The review into extremist funding was commissioned by David Cameron in 2015 in exchange for Liberal Democrat support in a vote on whether to intervene militarily in Syria.

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