Muslim Brotherhood will legally challenge UK government report

Organisation says long-awaited inquiry into political Islam has been unduly influenced by Britain’s allies that are hostile to democracy in the Middle East

Thursday 17 December 2015 06.00 GMT Last modified on Thursday 17 December 2015 07.52 GMT 

A critical report calling for greater oversight of the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to be subject to a legal challenge by the Islamist movement after it is published on Thursday by the government.

The long-awaited inquiry, ordered by David Cameron, into the Brotherhood’s operation in the UK is expected to include new curbs on the group and its associates in a move that will be presented by ministers as a crackdown on Islamism.

Lawyers for the Muslim Brotherhood said that any “undue” criticism of the group will be challenged in the courts. Tayab Ali of ITN solicitors, who is acting for the Brotherhood, said: “We await the report’s publication but in the event of unwarranted or excessive negative criticism we will challenge it in legal proceedings.”

Ali said that there was already a case that the report has been “unduly influenced by foreign powers hostile to the rise of democracy in the Middle East” and that he had been given assurances by government lawyers that the Brotherhood would be given “notice of the report and right of reply to criticism”.

“This was particularly important as any unsubstantiated criticism would unfairly damage the reputation of the Middle East’s largest democratic organisation,” he said.

Last month the Guardian revealed that the United Arab Emirates, dominated by the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi, threatened to block billion-pound arms deals with the UK, stop inward investment and cut intelligence cooperation if Britain did not act against the Muslim Brotherhood, which it regards as a terrorist outfit.

The review was conducted by Sir John Jenkins, Britain’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and it is understood to call for closer monitoring of the Brotherhood and its affiliates. The review’s findings were due to be published in July 2014 but has been long delayed, with no explanation from Downing Street.

It is understood the government will now publish the findings as a motion in parliament – effectively denying the Brotherhood a chance to judicially review the way in which it was published.

A trio of the UK’s closest allies in the Arab world – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – have all complained that London is a base for the Muslim Brotherhood, which began and was developed in Egypt.

These Arab nations have all outlawed the Brotherhood and accused it of links to terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood denies this, saying it is a peaceful political movement.

Ali said that Crispin Blunt, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, had considered his complaint about how the government had been apparently influenced and had said he “intends to run an inquiry into the government’s position towards political Islam which will cover many of the issues raised”.

The revelations in the Guardian exposed the UAE’s widescale lobbying of prime minister and key diplomats as well as Whitehall’s machinery being put at the service of Gulf sheikhs.

In documents seen by the Guardian the UAE offered Cameron lucrative arms and oil deals for British business which would have generated billions of pounds for BAE Systems and allowed BP to bid to drill for hydrocarbons in the Gulf.

Jenkins, on a visit to Abu Dhabi in 2014, had been told that the trust between Britain and the Gulf state “has been challenged due to the UK position towards the Muslim Brotherhood” because “our ally is not seeing it as we do: an existential threat not just to the UAE but to the region”.

The UAE, which is dominated by the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi, had begun raising the stakes with Cameron a day after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was declared Egypt’s first democratically elected president in June 2012.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, met the prime minister at No 10 and was briefed to express the UAE’s concern over the implications of Morsi’s victory.

The plans appeared to be for the UAE to offer a series of carrots for UK business and the country’s military in return for action against the Brotherhood.

Other senior politicians have long wondered why the government is so bothered by the Brotherhood. Last month Paddy Ashdown said the prime minister had ordered an inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood which ended up concluding the group were not extremists – and that was “unhelpful to the Saudis”.

Downing St said that House of Commons business is posted on the parliamentary website: “We do not comment on anything in advance of its publication.”

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