Theresa May’s former chief-of-staff has called for her government to finally proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety, ending a legal loophole that will enable the public display of the terror group’s flag on the streets of London next weekend.
Nick Timothy, a key voice at the heart of government until his resignation following the Tories disastrous election showing last year, spoke out as the government continues resist widespread calls for the political wing to be banned alongside the already-proscribed military wing. The fact both share the same flag – emblazoned with a rifle – has given the green light for organisers of the annual al Quds Day parade on 10 June to say it can be displayed at the event. Police also confirmed today they are powerless to take action without “reasonable suspicion” the waver is a member of supporter of the banned part.
“The legal test for banning a march is, rightly, a tough one,” Timothy told the Jewish News. “If the police think a march will cause “serious public disorder” they can ask the home secretary to ban it. If they do not do so the home secretary cannot stop any march going ahead. The real problem Al Quds Day exposes is that Hezbollah is not fully proscribed in Britain. It should be, and if it was proscribed this march could not go ahead in its existing form.”
After a speaker at last year’s march blamed “Zionists” for the Grenfell Tower disaster, the former Downing Street aide who also worked with May at the home office added: “Al Quds Day also exposes reluctance by the authorities to prosecute hate crimes when they are committed, often against Jews, at public protests, often under the guise of criticising Israel. This needs to change.”
Hezbollah – which itself doesn’t distinguish between the two wings – is already proscribed in full by America and the Arab League and London mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly urged the home office to exercise its power to do the same since the last march when Amber Rudd was still in post. Those calls have been echoed by communal leaders and MPs from all sides of the House, who renewed their calls for action after Sajid Javid took office.
In a letter to LFI vice-chair Louise Ellman, Metropolitan Police Commander Jane Connors this week said she and Commissioner Cressida Dick share “concerns about the flying of flags that may be construed as belonging to a terrorist organisation”. But, given that Parliament has “consciously” chosen to proscribe only the military wing, there needs to be “reasonable suspicion” that the person flying flag is a member or supporter of the proscribed part for action to be taken under section 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
“Flying a Hezbollah flag on its own does not necessarily indicate support for the proscribed element when all parts of Hezbollah share the same flag,” she wrote. “There needs to be further actions or words that arose this reasonable suspicion.” She said there would be a “proportionate policing plan” in place for the march and a planned counter-demonstration. “Where there is evidence that an offence has been committed, including those that are religiously aggravated, and it meets the charging standards set out by the CPS, then we will progress it.”
Ellman said: “We must remove this false and ludicrous distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings from UK law, and I would urge the new home secretary to take this action immediately”
A ComRes poll for the Jewish News in January showed 44 percent supportive of the political wing being designated a terror group, compared with just 10 percent who opposed. Jewish News has campaigned for a change in the law for several years, joining forces with the Zionist Federation to demand the home office takes action.
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