What we wished would happen in Egypt has come true in London. I was among those whose voice grew coarse from calling for conducting an impartial investigation of the terrorist acts committed in the country in order to identify the perpetrators and to hold them legally and politically accountable. Something of the sort was achieved when we received the news from London earlier this week reporting British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to conduct an investigation into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain, after it had been classed a “terrorist” group in Egypt , Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
According to the reports from the French news agency AFP, who quoted Cameron’s spokesperson, the decision was made in order “to make sure we fully understand what this organisation is, what it stands for, what its links are, what its beliefs are in terms of both extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the United Kingdom.”
I do not imagine the British government overlooked or was oblivious to the movements and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in London, especially since many of its members have been living in the UK for years, and some hold British citizenship and have their rights guaranteed by law.
Most Muslim Brotherhood members in the UK are Egyptian, but there are some from other Arab and Islamic countries and they are all under constant observation. Reports from Britain have said that the decision was taken in response to pressure from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in context of the efforts made by the three countries to persecute the Brotherhood and end their activities. Despite this, this decision is particularly important and cannot be ignored, especially as the Saudi government had put similar pressure on the British government, led by John Major in the 1990’s, when it wanted two Saudi activists (Saad Al-Faqih and Mohammed Al-Massari) expelled from the UK. The Saudi government threatened to cancel an arms deal with the UK worth $70 billion (known as the Yamamah Deal), but these efforts were unsuccessful as the two activists still reside in Britain.
The decision made by Cameron is significant for four reasons. First, the investigation is being conducted without prior prejudice, meaning that it seeks to determine whether or not the group has extremist tendencies or practices terrorism and does not aim to prove a preconceived accusation.
Secondly, the investigation is being conducted in a country that respects the freedom of expression and the law has firm roots guaranteeing a sufficient degree of integrity and impartiality. Thirdly, the borders between the judiciary and politics are clear, bearing in mind that the judiciary has issued many rulings that oppose and challenge the country’s politics.
Fourthly, there are many strong independent institutions in Britain that are able to rectify any deviation or suspicion in the conduct of the government or its official institutions.
The newspapers have reported that the committee formed by Cameron will be headed by the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and one of the committee members will be an ambassador who worked in Cairo.
Some newspapers have pointed this out to hint that the head of the committee or its members may be sympathetic towards Saudi Arabian, Emirati, or Egyptian policies and this is a possibility, but it is not very troublesome because the views of the committee’s members may be limited, and they will be governing by the limits of the law.
Moreover, the committee’s report will be discussed in the House of Commons, and it will therefore be presented before the recess. Although the preparation of the report may take several months, the British government will not be willing to ruin its reputation in respecting freedoms and the law just to please other friendly countries, and it will try to reconcile its interests and principles as much as possible.
We cannot help but decide that this important and vital issue was not fairly investigated in Egypt, and that all related decisions have been politically supported by the security reports. I will not tire from reminding everyone of the conclusion made by the legal fact-finding committee in Egypt investigating the January 25 revolution, headed by Judge Adel Koura, the former President of the Court of Cassation, and how the report was ignored because it accused the police of violence. The events during that period were then adapted in the reports of security agencies, which expressed political ideas rather than an impartial and objective investigation.
Press reports have talked about the British telling the Saudis that their government cannot issue a ruling condemning any political faction and accusing them of extremism or violence unless an investigation is made supporting this claim and providing evidence. This is an indirect reference to the difference between a democratic state ruled by law and other states ruled by whims who regard politics as being above the law. Due to this, I would argue that the British investigation is very important because, at worst, it will not stray far from the truth and justice, and this is the right way forward.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.