George Galloway, the British MP leading the Viva Palestina international aid convoy to the Gaza Strip, has been declared ‘person non grata’ by the Egyptian government and deported from the country.
The politician was picked up by Egyptian officials at the Rafah border crossing on Friday and driven to Cairo, the capital, where he was placed on a flight back to London.
On arriving at Heathrow airport, in the UK capital, Galloway said: "It’s always been a badge of honour to be deported by a tin-pot dictator and that’s what happened this morning.
"Having crossed the border from Gaza into Egypt … my friend and I were bundled into a car, 25 officers, accepting no dissuasion, drove us straight to the airport, basically forced us onto the plane."
Galloway said that at the steps of the plane a representative of the foreign ministry in Egypt had told him he had been declared ‘persona non grata,’ was being deported and was not welcome to return to Egypt.
The Respect Party MP has been vocal in his criticism of Egyptian authorities in recent days after their decision not to allow the convoy of about 200 vehicles to arrive in Egypt through the port at Nuweiba.
Cairo insisted that the aid be sent back through Syria and then by ferry to the port of El-Arish on the Mediterranean.
Egypt’s foreign ministry later issued a statement on Friday confirming Galloway had been declared ‘persona non grata’ and would not be allowed to return to the country, accusing him of incitement over his criticism of the government.
An Egyptian police officer maintained that security personnel had only escorted Galloway for his own protection.
Seven other members of the Viva Palestinian convoy have also been ordered arrested after being accused of inciting riots in El-Arish.
The decision by the attorney-general in North Sinai means the activists could be detained after passing through the Rafah border crossing from Gaza.
It was not clear if they were in Egyptian custody on Friday.
Late on Tuesday, more than 50 people were wounded during a clash between Egyptian authorities and international members of the convoy.
The protests were sparked by an Egyptian decision to allow 139 vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, but requiring a remaining 59 vehicles to pass via Israel.
Afterwards, clashes between Egyptian security forces and Palestinians waiting for the aid convoy led to the death of one Egyptian policeman.
Israel and Egypt have severely restricted travel to and from the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized power there in June 2007, after winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006.
The blockade currently allows only very basic supplies into Gaza.
The siege has severely restricted essential supplies and placed Gazans in a dire situation, made worse by Israel’s military assault last winter that reduced much of the territory to ruins.