The Sunday Telegraph published two articles on 19 October 2014, both of which are curious. Curious given their timing and odd given their content.
The first article entitled 'Downing Street to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood' at first glance appears to suggest that there has been some sort of dramatic revelation about the Brotherhood thus justifying a 'crackdown'. In reality however, the article simply outlines already existing powers open to the law enforcement agencies, quotes inappropriate and unprofessional remarks from a 'source', and further undermines an already flawed review.
The second article, 'Lorenzo Vidino: For too long, London has been a hub for the Muslim Brotherhood', is even more bizarre in that the article does not appear to say anything at all. The title would suggest that there is to be some sort of revelation, that there is a reason for the statement, and yet this is not forthcoming. What can be inferred by the article is that it is a thinly veiled attempt at a pre-emptive strike to re-assert the legitimacy of the review. Legitimacy that was undermined right at the outset, and legitimacy that has been undermined further by these two articles, not forgetting the fact that Dr. Vidino, the author of the second article is quoted in the first article as a part of the review panel. Dr. Vidino now denies he was a member of the review panel, but claims he was requested to submit a paper by the panel review Chair.
Both articles are common in that they seek to suggest that the purpose of the review was never to investigate the Brotherhood with a view to proscribing them as a terrorist organisation, but to 'better understand them'. It must therefore be questioned why such a review was necessary, and as per the submissions made to that panel, why it was necessary now. If the intention was to better understand them they could have done that at Chequers when the Prime Minister met them in 2012.
The fact remains that no matter how often it is repeated that it is not an 'investigation' but a 'review', it will always been seen as such, given the manner in which it was announced, and further, there will always be concerns of credibility given the make up of the panel. Members of which have previously gone on record to make serious accusations against the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore present a clear inference of bias.
Dr. Vidino in his article continues to levy accusations at the Muslim Brotherhood and yet fails to back them up with any reliable evidence. He suggests that London has been a hub for too long, and yet fails to argue why this is the case and why he takes issue. He goes on to suggest that few would see the Brotherhood as an ally in countering violent radicalisation and yet doesn't argue why. The article does nothing more than to cast further suspicion on a group when the correct approach would be not to seek to foster such suspicion given the political and social climate at present. Links should be forged with communities to promote cohesion against the obvious threat of extremism; further suspicion should not be raised simply by making wide-ranging statements without developing an argument to support that statement.
The first article seeks to suggest that there is to be a 'crackdown' on the brotherhood, however, the headline is wholly misleading. What the article states is that there are to be inquiries into funding and links to jihadi groups, the banning of radical clerics entering the UK, and investigations into charities that act as 'fronts'. As a lawyer, I would be quite surprised if this wasn't happening already. A review was not required to determine that these steps should be taken. The intelligence services will already be taking a close look at any group that seeks to support or fund Jihadist groups, front organisations will also already be under investigation, and as for the banning of clerics, where their presence would not be conducive to the public good i.e. if the content of speeches is deemed radical, then they would have already been refused entry and many have.
One inference from the Sunday Telegraph article is that the review had no real point. In particular, the 'source' is quoted as saying that "We cannot get them for terrorism but I bet you they don't pay their taxes". Forgetting the obvious inappropriateness of such a wide sweeping comment, such a statement is infantile and further undermines the credibility of an already questionable process. Why does the source assume that members don't pay their taxes, I would ask that source to elaborate further and provide evidence for this sweeping and wholly inappropriate statement. This kind of remark is something one might expect to hear at a UKIP Party Conference, not in an otherwise respectable daily newspaper.
The reality of the position is that if there was any evidence that suggested that the Brotherhood was involved in terrorism or the support of terrorists, there would not have been a 'review' the relevant members would have been investigated, prosecutions would be brought, and the group would be proscribed. In light of the absence of any such investigation it is appropriate to conclude that the review did not draw any meaningful conclusions, and no doubt, nothing further than that which was discussed during the meeting between members of the Brotherhood and David Cameron when he invited them to Chequers to discuss matters and offered his support to the group.
A review flawed from the outset has been shown to have maintained those flaws throughout the process, reaching no real conclusion, unable to shed the spectre of bias, and it would appear resorting to sensationalist articles that lack substance.
* Toby Cadman is a Barrister at the Chambers of Anthony Berry QC (http://www.9bri.com) and a member of the International Criminal Law Bureau in The Hague (http://www.internationallawbureau.com). He serves as legal counsel to the Cordoba Foundation and submitted a paper to the UK Government Review into the Muslim Brotherhood.