Muslim Brotherhood inquiry could 'discredit' UK, peers warn

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Peers have suggested that an inquiry ordered by the prime minister into the Muslim Brotherhood's UK operations is being made in the interests of Saudi Arabia.

David Cameron announced earlier this month he has ordered Whitehall officials to launch an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood, led by the UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins.

The topic was raised by Lib Dem Baroness Falkner of Margravine, who questioned if, the organisation was thought to have committed terrorist offences, "why do they not use existing counter-terrorism laws to prosecute them in the courts?"

"If, on the other hand, the inquiry is being driven at the behest of Saudi Arabia to discredit the Brotherhood," she continued, "it is the UK government and indeed the UK foreign policy that risks being discredited."

Crossbencher and former ambassador to Saudi Arabia Lord Wright of Richmond accused ministers of putting the current ambassador in an "extremely invidious position" since the Saudi government wishes to "discredit and to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood".

In reply, Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach insisted the inquiry was being undertaken "on the grounds of national interest" in order to gain a "thorough understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood".

"This is about UK national interest and the UK government forming its own view," he later reiterated, adding Sir John had been chosen because he is "one of our most senior diplomats and has extensive knowledge of the Arab world" and not because of his ambassadorial role.

Shadow Home Office minister Baroness Smith of Basildon asked whether "tension" existed on the issue between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Number 10, and whether it ought to be regarded as an "investigation" or a "review".

Lord Taylor insisted the government was "at one on the issue" and specified the inquiry took the form of an "internal review for the government itself"

The diplomat Lord Wright then took the unusual step of rising again to tell the House that if he were the ambassador in question "I would myself find it extremely difficult" to comply with the government's instructions.

The minister responded: "I'm very pleased Sir John Jenkins has not found it so."

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