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5 Nov 2002 : Column 262—continued

Mr. O'Brien: There are certainly serious problems in relation to terrorism in Egypt, and the Egyptian Government are working hard, not least in co-operation with our country and others, to seek to resolve those issues. I certainly acknowledge that they have to be prepared to deal with their concerns, but we also need to ensure that any British citizens who are detained are treated properly.

The point made about whether the detainees would be able to leave the country if they are acquitted is important. We know nothing at the moment to suggest that, if they are acquitted, the Egyptian authorities would not allow them to leave Egypt. However, the formalities involved could mean that an actual release takes several days. The fourth person in this case, Hassan Rizvi, was released on 12 August following the announcement of the intention to release on 4 August, and he was able to leave the country on the same day.

On the suggestion that the Prime Minister might be involved, I hear that request from the hon. Member for Southend, West and I shall certainly consider the appropriate time when it might be looked at.

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In conclusion, I assure the hon. Gentleman and others that Ministers in London and our ambassador in Cairo have taken a close personal interest in this case. Consular staff in Cairo have worked extremely hard to ensure that we have done all that we properly can to assist Maajid Nawaz, lan Nisbet and Reza Pankhurst since their detention on 1 April. In London, our consular division has tried to maintain contact with the relatives and keep them informed of developments.

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Baroness Amos met the families on 7 May and 3 July. Mrs. Nawaz was able to meet our ambassador in Cairo to discuss the case during her recent visit to Egypt.

We have done what we can and we will continue to do so. This is a difficult case that is obviously traumatic for the families, and we will do all that we reasonably can to help and assist them through this difficult period.

Question put and agreed to.

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