Monthly Archives: April 2013

Local paper, Kent Messenger, reports on the UKIP candidate for Ramsgate, Martyn Heale, who it transpires was a former member of the National Front.

Heale who will be contesting a seat on Kent County Council on Thursday said of his former choice of political party:

“I have said on many occasions that I regret that youthful, and as it turned out, unwise decision to join.

“I categorically state that my NF membership was a bad decision and one that I sincerely regret.”

Members of far right parties (British National Party, National Front, British Freedom Party, British People’s Party, English Defence League, Britain First or the UK First Party) are denied membership of UKIP although the party said in relation to Heale, “He joined the party long before the rule came in and it would be contrary to natural justice to backdate it and apply it to him.”

There was further coverage in the weekend papers over UKIP candidates contesting seats in the local elections this Thursday.

After news last week on UKIP suspending a candidate for allegedly posting anti-Semitic comments and its refusal to censor a candidate for making anti-Muslim remarks, comes news of the paper’s suspension of its candidate, Chris Scotton, for the ward of Syston Ridgeway on Leicester county council, for his choice of ‘friends’ on Facebook which include the English Defence League.

The Sunday Mirror reported:

“UKIP yesterday suspended him [Scotton] after he “liked” a series of controversial organisations on Facebook – including the extremist English Defence League, a site claiming racism was just “ethnic banter” and a group talking about “losing a black friend in the dark”.”

UKIP has spoken out against the EDL’s backing of the party saying the far right organisation’s support is ‘not welcome’.

Local paper, the Lancashire Evening Post, reports on the resurfacing of leaflets by BNP member, Anthony Bamber, blaming Muslims for the heroin trade.

Bamber, who is standing as a BNP candidate in the local elections next month, was prosecuted for distributing the leaflets in three Lancashire towns in 2010 but the court cleared him of the charge of inciting religious hatred.

Bamber is now distributing the leaflets in Lancashire again safe in the knowledge that no legal action can be taken against him.

Bamber’s case was the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006) and his acquittal has served to reinforce arguments on the deficiency of the legislation in protecting against inciting religious hatred on par with inciting racial hatred.

As UKIP suspends a party candidate for allegedly posting anti-semitic comments on line while at the same time standing by the candidacy of someone who has propagated anti-Muslim views, British Muslims can only wonder at the double standards in play on protecting Muslims and Jews against Islamophobia and anti-semitism.

The Guardian, Daily Mail and Daily Express report on UKIP’s suspension of an election candidate after allegations surfaced of anti-semitic comments posted on websites.

Anne-Marie Crampton was due to contest a seat in the East Sussex local elections as a UKIP candidate but has been suspended pending an investigation after comments on a conspiracy theorist website came to light.

The comments include remarks such as:

“Holocaust means a sacrifice by fire. Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers.

“The Second World Wide War was engineered by the Zionist jews and financed by the bankers to make the general public all over the world to feel so guilty and outraged by the Holocaust that a treaty would be signed to create the State of Israel as we know it today.”

Ms Crampton claims to be a victim of hacking and denies posting the comments though UKIP have moved to suspend her until cleared of the allegations.

UKIP’s response to the charges has been quite interesting given that earlier in the week The Guardian reported on the party standing a candidate in Rotherham who is known for his closeness to BNP members in the area and who believes there are too many Muslims in Britain.

Caven Vines on a blog made comments such as:

“Muslims go to war warring [sic] the same cloths as ordinary people who they hide behind they cover their faces, they hide behind women and children they set up rocket launches in school yards they use children to push wheel barrows into crowds and soldiers then detonate it killing innocent people SO WHO ARE THE COWARDS.

“Its about time the Government and the Police stopped pandering to these so called British Muslims and other foreign nationals.”

And in relation to an accident involving Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham some years ago, Caven posted the remark:

“If you are a Muslim in Britain you can almost do what you want with the good old Labour Governments blessing,”

When contacted by The Guardian, Vines told the paper:

“When they [Muslims] get here, suddenly – you don’t have to be born in this country – you can come here, live here for a while and stand as MPs and that sort of thing. We are giving ’em power which they shouldn’t have. We couldn’t go to Pakistan and stand as an MP. All I’m saying is we’ve opened ourselves up to this.”

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has admitted that the party lacks the resources to vet all candidates standing for the party in next week’s election but the admission does little to justify its acting to suspend one candidate for alleged anti-Semitic comments while standing another for making egregiously offensive remarks about Muslims. Is Islamophobia any less undesirable in our society and electioneering than anti-Semitism?

Two UKIP candidates were suspended from last year’s local elections for making Islamophobic comments, including praising Anders Breivik’s ‘thesis’ on Muslims in Europe and calling the Qur’an a ‘fascist book’.

Little wonder that the English Defence League has thrown its weight behind Farage’s party.

The BBC, Guardian and Independent all cover the latest development in the press industry’s reaction to the Leveson report – the publication of an plan for press regulation by the Associated Newspapers, Express Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, News international and Telegraph Media Group.

The alternative regulation model negates the provision in the Royal Charter published by the Government last month on a statutory underpinning to press regulation – the provision that it can only be altered by a two thirds majority in each House of Parliament. The industry’s proposed self-regulation model also contains a provision allowing newspapers “a “veto” of appointments to the board of the new regulator”, according to the Independent.

The issue of the industry’s ‘veto power’ on appointments was a major sticking point in the negotiations before a cross party deal was agreed and instrumental for the purposes of complying with a key Leveson recommendation – that the press regulation body be independent of the industry.

The BBC reports that the editors of the FT, Guardian and Independent, have not backed the industry proposal. Lionel Barber, Alan Rusbridger and Chris Blackhurst, respective editors of the titles, broke ranks with editors when they backed the need for statutory underpinning to press regulation.

The BBC also notes some of the points of difference in the industry’s alternative model notable among them being this:

“Make it more difficult to bring group complaints”

The issue of third party complaints was strongly rejected by the industry after the initial editors’ meeting at the Delaunay with editors’ considering the recommendation by Lord Leveson to be ‘unacceptable’.

The Royal Charter agreed in cross party talks last month introduces the third party complaints clause in the provision:

The Board should have the power (but not necessarily the duty) to hear complaints:

a) from anyone personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the standards code, or

b) where there is an alleged breach of the code and there is public interest in the Board giving consideration to the complaint from a representative group affected by the alleged breach,

In our evidence and submission to the Leveson Inquiry the problem posed by the absence of a third party complaints clause to media representations on Islam and Muslims was one of our primary concerns. It is worthwhile remembering the paragraphs in Lord Leveson’s report underscoring the need for a third party complaints clause:

“Overall, the evidence in relation to the representation of women and minorities suggests that there has been a significant tendency within the press which leads to the publication of prejudicial or pejorative references to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental illness or disability….That failure has, in the main, been limited to a section of the press and may well stem from an undue focus on seeking to reflect the views (even if unsuccessfully) of a particular readership. A new regulator will need to address these issues as a matter of priority, the first steps being to amend practice and the Code to permit third party complaints.”

Hacked Off’s Director, Evan Harris, has responded to the alternative charter by the newspaper industry calling the reaction a “temper tantrum by some powerful people used to having their own way” and saying:

“The royal charter agreed by parliament is not going to be reopened at the request of Mr Murdoch, Mr Desmond and Mr Dacre”.

Ian Cobain, Guardian journalist and author of Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, in a report in the paper today covers the investigations launched by Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service against MI5 and MI6 on allegations of complicity in torture.

Investigations into the rendition and torture of two Libyan nationals, Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhadj are currently underway. Cobain notes three further cases which the police and CPS are taking forward:

“One of the latest three investigations is thought to concern a British Muslim who is alleged to have been subjected to mistreatment at Bagram, and who is said to have subsequently agreed to work as an informant for MI5 in order to avoid further suffering.

“The second concerns Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national and UK resident who was detained and allegedly mistreated at Bagram, before being flown to Guantánamo. He remains at Guantánamo, with his lawyers alleging that a deal struck between the US, UK and Saudi authorities is preventing his return to his family in London.

“The third investigation is examining allegations made by Hassan Zemiri, 45, an Algerian married to a Canadian who was detained at Bagram and Guantánamo before being released. Zemiri alleges that British intelligence officers interrogated him while he was being beaten and, on one occasion, water-boarded, at Bagram. He also alleges that an Englishman calling himself Paul took part in the beatings.”

Among cases the CPS has declined to pursue is that of Martin Mubanga.

Allegations of complicity in torture, rendition and violations of the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment have dogged the security agencies as further cases of abuse have been unearthed and challenged in the courts.

In a column in the Guardian today also, columnist Seumas Milne comments on the case of Shaker Aamer writing:

“No wonder the British government is so keen to force through secret court hearings in “national security” cases through its justice and security bill – or that it has struggled to convince the courts that the Salafist cleric Abu Qatada, regularly detained without charge for years, would not be at risk of torture if packed off to a police state such as Jordan.

“It’s hardly surprising in the wake of such a saga that western claims to be the champions of human rights and humanitarian intervention are treated with derision across much of the world.”

The Mirror newspaper covers the changed fortunes of the British National Party in local government as it prepares for the local elections next month.

From its heyday in the early noughties when the BNP held eight seats on Burnley council, its largest number, the party will attempt to cling on to representation and defend its remaining council seat on 2nd May.

Journalist Ros Wynne-Jones, writes of the BNP campaign after the Manningham riots of 2001 and its steady focus on Asian families in the area to galvanise support for its anti-Muslim message.

“During the [2001] riots – which also affected neighbouring mill towns – pubs were firebombed and over 200 people in Burnley were involved in causing £1million worth of damage.

“The BNP put out leaflets accusing Asians of getting all the best housing and facilities.

“Against a background of neglect, high unemployment and what a 2001 post-riots report called ­“deep-rooted segregation”, the BNP now began to blame Asian ­families for all the town’s ills.

“By 2003, some streets were lined with posters and a BNP banner hung across the town from the mill.”

Read the article here.

Local paper, Bucks Free Press, reports on the launch of a police investigation after a racist post was added to the Facebook page of the Royal British Legion High Wycombe branch.

Vice chairman of the branch, Kevin Taylor, reported the matter to the police last week after the image was ‘shared’ on the club’s Facebook page. He said in a statement:

“It was brought to my attention that there was a post on the Facebook page of the High Wycombe RBL branch.

“This page is administered by the club and in no way represents the aims, objectives or beliefs of the Royal British Legion.

“As a branch, we find this type of racial hatred wholly at odds, particularly in light of the work this branch has undertaken with the Mayor [Cllr Chaudhary Shafique] and Wycombe Islamic Mission and Mosque Trust.

“The matter is currently being dealt with by the police as a race hate crime and has been referred to Haig House for further action.”

A second woman charged with spraying racist graffiti on the Shah Jahan mosque in Woking, and on other buildings in the vicinity, has been sentenced today reports the Surrey Advertiser.

Georgina Gontar, 20, pleaded guilty to a breach of an Asbo, four offences of racially aggravated criminal damage and two of causing criminal damage.

The local paper reports on the sentence passed on Gontar:

“For the Asbo breach and racially aggravated criminal damage, Gontar received a custodial sentence of 10 weeks, suspended for 12 months.

“For the criminal damage she received a custodial sentence of seven weeks, suspended for 12 months, to run concurrently with the first term.

“During the 12-month period, Gontar has a supervisory order in place and she is required to participate in a diversity awareness and prejudice programme.

“The magistrates also ordered Gontar to pay compensation of £650 to the James Walker Group, £40 to Hobbycraft and £20 to Unit 18 Boundary Way at the hearing.”

Her co-accused, Laura Woodward, admitted four counts of racially and religious aggravated criminal damage and two of criminal damage and was sentenced in March.

BBC News covers the debate in the House of Lords yesterday prompted by a question posed by Lord Dykes on the delays to the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry report.

Lord Dykes tabled the question:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will hold discussions with the administrators of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war to ascertain a date for publication.”

The Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Hill, responded:

“My Lords, the Government do not have any plans to hold such a discussion with the Iraq inquiry. Sir John Chilcot advised the Prime Minister last July that the inquiry would be in a position to begin the process of giving those subject to criticism in the report the opportunity to make representations by the middle of 2013, and that the inquiry would submit its report once that process had been completed.”

Baroness Williams, raising the issue of lessons to be learnt and the knock-on effect to improvements in decision making presented by further delays to the report’s publication, stated:

“…the lessons to be learnt from an inquiry—and the lessons to be learnt from this are probably among the most important of all— depend a little on the passage of time between the findings of that inquiry and the use of those lessons to  affect policy. I ask him to bear in mind, as he considers this, the gap between the necessary and right attempt to give people the right to respond, but also the importance of the conclusions for the future work of this Government’s policy as well as the policy of the Opposition. “

The 10th anniversary of the decision to invade Iraq was marked last month and four years on from the establishment of the Chilcot Inquiry, in 2009, the prospect of full disclosure about the evidence and arguments that informed that decision grow ever more remote.