Pro-Hamas Rally Speeches May Be Illegal, UK Terror Watchdog Says


Families of the people kidnapped, as well as other supporters protest against the Netanyahu government, calling for his resignation and to bring home the kidnapped family members, outside The Kirya (HaKirya) in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 14, 2023. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Some speakers in pro-Palestine rallies may have broken the law by glorifying terrorism, the UK’s terrorism watchdog said.

The remarks made by Jonathan Hall, KC, came just before the Metropolitan Police deployed more than 1,000 officers on Saturday to police another pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London as the Israel-Hamas war entered the eighth day.

After being shown footage of speeches from previous demonstrations, Mr. Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the BBC that some of the remarks appear to be in breach of the law.

“If you take what happened in the Be’eri kibbutz, where babies were massacred, that is unambiguously an act of terrorism,” he said, referring to the horrifying scenes found at the Israeli settlement after Hamas terrorists slaughtered villagers on Oct. 7. On the same day, the group launched missile attacks from Gaza, seized Israeli villages, killed and raped civilians, and took hostages.

“People need to know, if you glorify that you risk committing a really serious terrorism offence,” Mr. Hall said.

Mr. Hall said one would be “in the territory of encouraging terrorism” if they are “referring by name to a Hamas terrorist operation, which we know involved acts of terrorism, and invite people to do something similar,” adding, “And that’s where the police will be looking, I would have thought.”

Israeli armoured personnel carriers head towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel on Oct.13, 2023. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Hamas is a proscribed terrorist group in the UK, the United States, the European Union, and some other jurisdictions.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote to police chiefs on Tuesday, suggesting chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” or the waving of a Palestinian flag may be considered illegal in certain contexts. Ms. Braverman also said she expected the Online Hate Crime Hub to “ensure the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

On Monday, Met police arrested three people during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in London over suspected assault on an emergency worker, racially motivated criminal damage, and possession of an offensive weapon.

Only one person, a 22-year-old woman, is known to have been arrested so far on suspicion of supporting a proscribed organisation, Hamas, during her speech at a protest in Brighton on Oct. 8.

She was arrested on Thursday and has since been bailed, pending further enquiries, Sussex Police said.

Met Police Seeks ‘Urgent’ Guidance on ‘Hate Crime’

Earlier this week, former Counter-extremism Commissioner Dame Sara Khan told The Telegraph that those who “glorified and endorsed terrorism” can’t be prosecuted under the current law unless they “encourage a terrorist act” or directly support a proscribed organisation such as Hamas.

Thousands are expected to attend a “March for Palestine” rally in central London on Saturday organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Met said.

Scotland Yard said more than 1,000 officers would be on duty to police the march, and warned the demonstrators “must observe the route” of the march that was authorised by the police.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, who is responsible for policing in London this weekend, warned that it’s illegal to support proscribed organisations.

“Anyone with a flag in support of Hamas or any other proscribed terrorist organisation will be arrested,” he said in a statement, adding that officers won’t “tolerate the celebration of terrorism or death, or tolerate anyone inciting violence.”

The Met stressed that “an expression of support for the Palestinian people more broadly, including flying the Palestinian flag, does not, alone, constitute a criminal offence.”

“However,” the force said, “there are some situations where the presence of a flag or banner or the use of specific words or phrases could be seen as intimidation. In some circumstances, it could also be seen as intending to cause harassment, alarm, or distress.”

The Met said it has written to the attorney general and the Crown Prosecution Service, seeking “urgent clarity and guidance on charging thresholds relating to hate crime.”

The Met said officers have received more reports of “hate crimes” including alleged anti-Semitic incidents and Islamophobic incidents.

Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 12, “there have been 105 reports of anti-Semitic incidents and 75 anti-Semitic offences. That is compared with 14 anti-Semitic incidents and 12 anti-Semitic offences during the same time the previous year,” the Met said.

“During the same time-frame there have been 58 Islamophobic incidents and 54 Islamophobic offences. In the same fortnight the previous year there were 31 Islamophobic incidents and 34 Islamophobic offences,” the force added.

The war has claimed at least 2,800 lives on both sides since Hamas launched an incursion on Oct. 7, with Israel placing the 25-mile Gaza Strip under siege and subjecting it to a torrent of retaliatory air strikes.

Hamas has also continued to fire rockets towards Israel.

Three Britons are confirmed to have died during last weekend’s assault on Israel, but reports have suggested at least 17 could be among the casualties.

PA Media contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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