Britain expels Saudi dissident


By Jennifer Thompson In early January the British government rejected an application for asylum by Saudi dissident Mohammed al-Mas'ari. Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe acknowledged that the decision to deport al-Mas'ari to the Dominican Republic was based on Britain maintaining their defence trade with Saudi Arabia. The decision on al-Mas'ari illustrates the close link between British arms manufacturers and the government. Another indication of their close relationship was the announcement that the new British ambassador to Saudi Arabia was to be a non-executive director of Vickers, one of the biggest British arms exporters to Saudi Arabia. Britain has had a long-standing arms export relationship with the corrupt and repressive ruling Saudi family. It begun in 1985 when Margaret Thatcher signed the &163;20 billion al-Yamanah arms-for-oil deal with King Fahd. The deal included a series of defence equipment sales made primarily by Vickers, British Aerospace, GKN and VSEL. The arms were paid for in oil, the funds from which were transferred through the Ministry of Defence to the arms manufacturers. This deal was updated in 1993. Al-Mas'ari is the spokesperson of the London-based Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights. The group began in Saudi Arabia before it was suppressed and al-Mas'ari imprisoned and tortured. He escaped to Britain via Yemen in 1994, from where his newsletters highlighting the Saudi family's corruption are faxed weekly to 800 Saudis. Al-Mas'ari narrowly escaped being deported to Yemen, where he would be in much greater danger. Al-Mas'ari will appeal the decision to send him to the Dominican Republic, which is not keen to have him either, but for the extra &163;2 million in aid promised by the British government.