HC Deb 08 April 1957 vol 568 cc801-3
33. Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has concerning the progress of the trial of the four British subjects on charges of espionage in the Egyptian criminal court.

Mr. Ian Harvey

The case has been heard by the Court of Committal, which sent all the accused for trial by the assize court. The trial is expected to open on 13th April.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Would my hon. Friend agree that the decision of the Egyptian authorities to time these arrests in August last year was to enable them to use these men as a bargaining counter in the Suez Canal dispute and that the very long delay which occurred before they were brought to trial and the present delay in the conduct of the trial are due to the same reason? If we can get no satisfaction from the representations of the Swiss authorities, will he consider raising this matter in the United Nations, because these unfortunate men have now been in custody, and, what is more, in Egyptian custody, for over seven months?

Mr. Harvey

I sympathise very much indeed with the points which my hon. and gallant Friend has made. This trial is about to proceed, and I think it would be wiser to await events before taking any further action. Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that the defence of the four British subjects is in the hands of competent lawyers.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the hon. Member appreciate that the trial which is about to take place in Egyptian territory cannot be regarded as sub judice? Have the Government made any attempt to ascertain whether these four men have been implicated in espionage in any form? What is the Government's opinion about these men? Are they regarded as innocent? Ought we not to make a public declaration to that effect?

Mr. Harvey

These men are in the hands of the Egyptians at the present time.

Mr. Shinwell

We know that.

Mr. Harvey

We have to consider what is in their best interests. I think the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to await the proceedings which are about to take place. We will take what action appears to be most appropriate.

Mr. Nicholson

Are the Government under any illusion as to the strength of British feeling about this in all sections throughout the country? I hope they are not.

Mr. Harvey

This Government are under no illusions about anything.