Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

George Galloway MP deported from Egypt, say activists

George Galloway in Gaza
Mr Galloway had been in Gaza with an aid convoy

British MP George Galloway has been deported from Egypt, say activists working with him to take an aid convoy into Gaza.

The Bow and Bethnal Green MP had been with international activists trying to take 200 aid trucks into the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Egypt had refused some of the vehicles access and there have been protests and clashes on the Egypt-Gaza border.

The state news agency says Mr Galloway has left Egypt and returned home.

There have also been reports the Respect MP has been declared "persona non grata" and will not be allowed to enter Egypt again, following his criticism of Cairo over delays to the aid convoy.

The activists have accused the Egyptians of heavy-handed policing. Egyptian officials counter that Mr Galloway has tried to embarrass the government.

In a speech last year Mr Galloway described Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak as a "criminal" and "outlaw of the Arab world" and called for his overthrow.

Egypt has faced criticism in the Arab and Muslim world for co-operating with Israel in its blockade of the Gaza Strip. But Egypt says it allows humanitarian aid to pass with certain restrictions.

Convoy tension

The BBC's Cairo correspondent Yolande Knell said Mr Galloway had returned from Gaza, where the convoy arrived two days ago, and had been planning to head back to London.

But when he and his assistant returned to Egypt they learnt that seven other members of the convoy still in Gaza were due to be arrested on their return to Egypt.

Mr Galloway wanted to go back to accompany them out but it is understood the Egyptians would not allow him to return, bundled both men into a van and escorted them to the airport.

There has been much tension around the aid convoy after Egypt made it take a big detour, delaying its arrival. There were clashes with Egyptian police at a port close to the Rafah crossing, our correspondent said.

A spokeswoman for the convoy said police intervened when Mr Galloway and colleague Ron McKay arrived at the crossing.

"As soon as they emerged on to Egyptian soil, both men were forcibly pushed into a van, refused exit and told that they were leaving the country. They were then driven off in a police convoy."

She said Mr Galloway had been put on a plane bound for London.

On Wednesday an Egyptian soldier was killed and several Palestinians hurt during clashes over the delayed aid convoy, which involves 550 people from 17 countries. Dozens of activists had been hurt on Tuesday.

Egypt and Israel impose a strict blockade on the Gaza Strip, which Israel says is aimed at weakening Hamas.

The Viva Palestina aid convoy, which is carrying items including heart monitors, clothing and dental equipment, aims to break the blockade.



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