Mercer calls for dissident radio closure

Concern over radio station advocating attacks on British troops
Concern over radio station advocating attacks on British troops

Shadow homeland security minister Patrick Mercer has urged the government to close a London-based radio station that calls for attacks on UK troops.

However, while refusing to comment directly on the issue, the Home Office indicated there was little it could do about a radio station that does not actually broadcast in Britain, only in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Mr Mercer said Al-Tajdeed Radio, which is run by Saudi dissident Dr Muhammad al-Massari, was "extremely worrying" and its calls for attacks on British soldiers "desperately demoralising" for the troops serving in the Middle East.

He told Today that Dr al-Massari was a "prime candidate to be deported" under the home secretary's tightened powers.

Dr al-Massari refused to be interviewed on the programme but insisted the radio station had nothing to do with the UK government because it was not broadcast in Britain. Programmes are thought to be recorded in London and then sent to Iraq and Saudi by satellite from either France or Holland.

And today a spokesman for the Home Office effectively confirmed this. He told that while the government was aware of the concerns, there was nothing in place to deal with such a situation.

Broadcast regulator Ofcom said it has no control over broadcasts outside the UK and the Home Office spokesman said that even the anti-terror legislation coming into force this autumn would not specifically cover situations such as this.

Charles Clarke's tightened powers to deport foreign nationals could only be used where an individual's presence in the country was not thought conducive to the public good.

Mr Mercer told Today: "To hear jihad talk, albeit in Arabic, being broadcast out to Iraq where you are trying to do your job as a soldier, a policeman or whatever, I think it must be desperately demoralising. It should be closed down."

His comments were backed by Labour MP Andrew Dismore, who has long been seeking action against Dr al-Massari. The Saudi dissident has frequently said British troops in Iraq are legitimate targets for attack, and his radio station carries similar views.

Last month, outgoing Saudi ambassador to London Prince Turki al-Faisal named Dr al-Massari as one of two men he had been warning the British government about for as long as he had been in the capital.