Glorify Hamas and you break law, says UK terror watchdog

According to the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism, speeches at pro-Palestinian rallies in the UK may have glorified terrorism.

This statement was made as Home Secretary Suella Braverman emphasized the need to use “the full force of the law” against support for Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group.

Jonathan Hall KC, who was shown footage from speeches collected by BBC Verify, expressed his belief that several of the speeches breached terrorism legislation and that the police should have taken action.

Regarding the recent attack on the Be’eri kibbutz in the context of terrorism, Mr. Hall said, “If you take what happened in Be’eri kibbutz, where babies were massacred, that is unambiguously an act of terrorism. People need to know that if they glorify such acts, they risk committing a serious terrorism offense.”

These comments were made in conjunction with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s response to questions about the potential criminality of waving Palestinian flags or saying “Free Palestine” in public. Mr. Sunak clarified that inciting violence and racial hatred is illegal, and those who engage in abusive or threatening behavior will face legal consequences. He reassured the public that the police would enforce the law vigorously.

More on Israel Gaza war

At a pro-Palestinian rally in Manchester on October 8, a man wearing a red football shirt with “Palestine” written on the back praised the resistance against Israel. He urged people to boycott Israeli goods and publicly supported the group Palestine Action.

Palestine Action is an organization that advocates direct action against companies supplying arms or weapons components to Israel. Some of its activists are currently facing trial on various charges.

In a speech at the rally, Richard Barnard, co-founder of Palestine Action, encouraged the crowd to turn the worldwide tsunami of Al-Aqsa resistance into a metaphorical tsunami. Instead of regretting his language, Mr. Barnard defended his speeches, emphasizing that he was advocating direct action against British industries supplying the Israeli military.

Additional pro-Palestinian rallies are scheduled to take place across the UK on Saturday, including in London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Thousands of people are expected to attend these events.

The Metropolitan Police has announced that over 1,000 officers will be present at the central London demonstration. The police have warned that anyone expressing support for Hamas or deviating from the designated route may be subject to arrest.

‘Not stopping free speech’

Mr. Hall clarified that terrorism laws are not meant to curb political speeches but to prevent mass murder, massacres, and terrorist activities. The police will focus on determining whether individuals deliberately or recklessly incite acts of terrorism.

Mr. Barnard expressed concerns about being arrested for his speeches, although he stated that he had been arrested multiple times before.

While interviewing attendees at the rally in Bradford, the BBC found that many individuals did not support Hamas’ actions in Israel. Instead, they were primarily concerned about the well-being of the Palestinian people.

‘The true nature of war’

A teenager named Hassan, whose family originates from the West Bank, condemned terrorist attacks on civilians but stated that the war’s true nature is revealed when innocent lives are lost on both sides.

As of now, the BBC is unaware of any arrests made by the Greater Manchester Police or West Yorkshire Police in relation to the speeches given on October 8. Bradford Police reported that appropriate policing measures were in place during the rally, resulting in minimal disruption to the public. A few arrests were made for offenses such as the illegal discharge of fireworks.

In Brighton, a 22-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of supporting Hamas after a protest on October 8. She remains in police custody.

Regarding criticism of media organizations that avoid directly labelling Hamas as “terrorist,” Mr. Hall emphasized the responsibility of broadcasters to accurately describe acts of terrorism when committed. The BBC stated that they use the word “terrorist” as attributed by those using it, including the UK government.

Sky News and ITV News stated that they make language decisions on a case-by-case basis. On their websites, they generally refer to Hamas militants or fighters, although they have occasionally described them as terrorists.


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