Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May was today questioned by the Home Affairs Select Committee on the Sheikh Raed Salah affair. Asked about the case by Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Committee, Mrs May was unable to provide coherent answers relating to the specifics of the Sheikh's arrest and detention.
Mr Vaz began by asking when she had signed the exclusion order, but Mrs May could not remember the exact date, becoming flustered and saying that it may have been Wednesday or Thursday. It was not until a number of questions later that the Home Secretary was able to state that the order had actually been signed on Thursday 23rd; it is the responsibility of the Home Secretary to sign such an order personally. In a similar vein, Mrs May again appeared uncomfortable when asked about when she had become aware of the Sheikh's presence in the UK. She was unable to provide an answer, and at first claimed that it was over the weekend. Under further questioning by Keith Vaz she backtracked and said that his entry had not been confirmed until Monday.
Significantly, David Winnick MP asked the Home Secretary for the reasons behind the exclusion order, noting that Sheikh Salah has denied the allegations of racism that have been published in certain sections of the media. Initially, Mrs May said that she would not comment on the reasons, given Sheikh Salah's right to appeal, but when further questioned she claimed that "he was banned for unreasonable behaviour". Theresa May did not expand on this and offered no further explanation; clearly it is the Home Secretary's answers which appear to be unreasonable.
The Home Office's handling of this case has created a number of unanswerable questions for the Home Secretary, as was evident today. The lack of clarity in Mrs May's answers cast doubts on the reliability of the evidence that she has to hand. The UK Border Agency is now conducting an inquiry into the handling of this case, whilst Sheikh Salah's court hearing will be on Friday. The Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee put on the record that they "were less than pleased" with what has happened. It will be interesting to see how the government extricates itself from this mess, and whether it continues to dance to the pro-Israel Lobby's tune or takes a stand for justice and freedom of speech.