HC Deb 28 June 1906 vol 159 cc1111-2
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in reference to the recent affray between British officers and Egyptians at Tantah, whether he has yet received any detailed information as to the circumstances which led to the affray; whether any of the natives were killed or injured, will the British officers who took part in the affray be tried; whether the pigeons shot on these occasions are tame or wild pigeons; whether pigeon shooting in the neighbourhood of villages is a legal occupation in Egypt; whether in this instance the permission of the head man of the village had been obtained by the officers before they commenced to shoot; what were the special grounds on which the Agent and Consul of Great Britain demanded that the accused Egyptians in this case should be sent for trial before the Special Tribunal; and whether there is any appeal from the Special Tribunal before which the Egyptians are to be tried.

(Answered by Secretary Sir Edward Grey.) When a report appeared in the Press yesterday, I telegraphed to know what the sentences were and what were the facts established at the trial, saying that it was desirable we should know them before any death sentences were executed. The information I have received is as follows, the sentences were as stated in the Press. With regard to the trial, the prisoners were defended by three of the best known native advocates, who had a full hearing. The Court was unanimous as regards the prisoners found guilty, and the evidence clearly established premeditation and concerted action. Thirty-one of the prisoners were; acquitted, and twenty-one were found guilty. The Court expressed its opinion that the British officers had behaved with extreme forbearance and self-restraint. The chief attack took place after they had given up their guns, and was persisted in with great brutality. I am also-informed that, in the opinion of Judge Bond and Mr. Hayter, the acting judicial adviser, both members of the Court, the first six prisoners would undoubtedly have been found guilty of murder by a British jury. The Special Court was composed of the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has had several years experience in the ministry of justice, and is Acting Minister of Justice in the absence of the latter; Mr. Bond, Vice-President of the Native Court of Appeal, whose position is practically that of Lord Chief Justice; Fathig Bey, President of the Cairo Native Court; Mr. Hayter, Acting Judicial Adviser, formerly a judge in the Soudan; and Colonel Ludlow, officiating Judge-Advocate. There is no legal power of interference on the part either of the Egyptian Government or of the British Agency with the execution of the decision of the Court, and I am confident that the character of the tribunal is the greatest safeguard possible against a miscarriage of justice.