Ex-Prisoner Condemns UK Government over Saudi Bribe Probe Block

Back in December 2000, the first of several British men was arrested in Saudi Arabia following a number of terrorist incidents. Rather than admit to a problem with al-Qaeda, the regime found it more expedient to round-up some ex-pats, subject them to torture until they confessed to a plot involving illicit alcohol, and then parade them on TV. Had the regime gone after the real terrorists rather than innocent foreigners, one wonders if intelligence about al-Qaeda might have emerged that could have prevented 9/11. The men were released – escaping a death sentence – in 2003 as terrorism in Saudi Arabia escalated; the story can be read here.

One of the men has a letter in today’s Guardian:

…When we sought the government’s assistance in seeking legal redress after enduring 32 months of false imprisonment and torture in Saudi Arabia, the Saudis warned Foreign Office minister Liz Symonds to back off and told her it would be counterproductive for the British government to get involved.

But the Foreign Office didn’t just back off, it obstructed justice. When our lawyer, Geoffrey Bindman, won us the right to sue our Saudi torturers, the government granted them immunity. Our government looked the other way when we were sentenced to death and while we were being tortured, and then actually helped Saudi officials evade justice after the court of appeal ruled there could be no blanket immunity in cases of torture…The government has cheapened our moral values, flouted the rule of law and violated our human rights in the hope of winning favour and pleasing the corrupt princes of the house of Saud.

Sandy Michell

Mitchell was responding to reports from Friday concerning why the UK government had been prepared to block an inquiry into whether BAE had illegally bribed members of the Saudi government for contracts:

Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced “another 7/7” and the loss of “British lives on British streets” if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

The threats allegedly came from Prince Bandar, who is said to have himself trousered £1 billion from BAE. Of course, the story isn’t quite as fresh as the Guardian story suggests; the intelligence threat was reported back in November 2006.

Incidentally, Bandar isn’t the only person to have received secret funds from BAE; last April it was revealed that BAE had paid an investigator to monitor the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. The person they employed was a certain Paul Mercer, who is known for his anti-CND activities and who was an activist in Young Conservatives back in the late 1980s (he’s also a friend of Conservative Party shadow defence minister Julian Lewis). Details about how this came to light can be seen here; the legal documents are rather interesting. Not much seems to have happened since then, although an article by Mark Thomas from December states that “CAAT are continuing legal proceedings against him”.

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