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3 Apr, 2014 12:09

Muslim Brotherhood strikes back against Saudi link in UK probe

The Muslim Brotherhood urged the UK not to be swayed by “non-democratic” and hostile forces in the Middle East backing the military government in Cairo following Downing Street’s decision to launch a probe into the group over possible extremist links.

In a statement released Wednesday by the Brotherhood’s London press office, the group said it “welcomes all opportunities to engage with Governments in order to bring a better understanding about the aims and methods of the Muslim Brotherhood and how it intends to return Egypt to a democratic and civil society.”

The transnational Islamist movement stressed what it called its longstanding commitment to non-violence following Britain’s decision on Tuesday to open a probe into the group’s activities.

Many members of the Brotherhood fled to the UK after coup-appointed authorities in Egypt began arresting thousands of people allegedly tied to the group, which has been accused by Saudi Arabia and others of fomenting violence.

Hundreds of Brotherhood members were killed in a nonviolent sit-in protest after President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in a military coup last July. On March 24, 529 Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to death by an Egyptian court over charges of murder and inciting violence.

With Egypt’s military authorities and Saudi Arabia remaining staunchly opposed to the group, the Brotherhood has questioned whether the process would be fair after Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to head up the probe.

“It is important that the British Government does not bend to pressure from foreign governments who are concerned about their own people's quest for democracy. It is hard to see how Sir John Jenkins will be able to conduct an independent internal review of the Muslim Brotherhood and carry his brief as ambassador to a non-democratic regime that is openly in political opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood,” the group’s statement read.

John Jenkins (Reuters / President Talabani's Press Office / Handout)

Saudi Arabia, a major trade partner with the UK has given Egypt billions of dollars to support the country’s ailing economy. The Kingdom’s Interior Minister, Prince Naif Ibn Abdul Aziz, once accused the Brotherhood of being behind most of the problems in the Arab world.

When asked why Jenkins was leading the review, a spokeswoman for Cameron told Reuters on Tuesday it was because it would focus on the group across the region, not just Egypt, and Jenkins had deep knowledge of the Middle East.

The Brotherhood also said the review should not be used to legitimize the criminality of the current Egyptian regime, which it implicated in “the unlawful killing of over 2,000 people and the detention of over 20,000 Egyptians.”

“In addition to the review into our organization we ask that the British Government considers the very many well documented and serious human rights abuses being conducted by the military regime in Egypt. The British Government should be cautious not to allow this review to be seen as an endorsement of the criminal acts which continue to be perpetrated against the people of Egypt. “

Egyptian authorities have denied the allegations.

On Tuesday, Britain said its review would extend to the Brotherhood’s philosophy, values, operational capacity in Britain and other parts of the world, and how its activities impacted UK national security.

"What is important ... is to make sure we fully understand what this organization 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," Cameron told reporters on Tuesday.

The Brotherhood has appointed Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, to argue its case.

“We propose to make submissions to the inquiry about the Muslim Brotherhood," the Guardian cites Macdonald as saying on Wednesday night. "The view my clients take is they don't think they have anything to fear from it. They were associated with an elected government that was overthrown in a military coup and that is the context in which this inquiry is taking place."