Blood li­bel cleric told: you’re wel­come to stay

Raed Salah wins ap­peal against de­por­ta­tion as judge says Home Sec­re­tary was wrong to ban him

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

SE­NIOR JUDGES have ruled that a lead­ing Is­lamic po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist is free to stay in Bri­tain de­spite hav­ing given a ser­mon in which he in­voked the an­ti­semitic blood li­bel.

Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the north­ern branch of the Is­lamic Move­ment in Is­rael, this week won his ap­peal against a de­por­ta­tion or­der im­posed last year, de­spite the judges’ ac­cep­tance that his com­ments would “of­fend and dis­tress Is­raeli Jews and the wider Jewish com­mu­nity”.

At the cen­tre of Sheikh Salah’s case was his de­nial that in a 2007 ser­mon in East Jerusalem his re­marks on chil­dren’s blood be­ing used to bake “holy bread” were ref­er­ences to the blood li­bel against Jews.

But the tri­bunal judges ruled that his claims were “wholly un­per­sua­sive” and agreed that Home Sec­re­tary Theresa May was right to con­sider the ser­mon when de­cid­ing whether to ban Sheikh Salah from Bri­tain.

I n the decision, Up­per I mmi­gra­tion Tri­bunal vi­cepres­i­dent Mr Jus­tice Ock­el­ton said: “We do not find this com- ment could be taken to be any­thing other than a ref­er­ence to the blood li­bel against Jews.”

How­ever, Sheikh Salah’s ap­peal suc­ceeded on all grounds af­ter the judges con­cluded that ul­ti­mately Mrs May had been “mis­led”, had “acted un­der a mis­ap­pre­hen­sion of the facts” and had

shown “dis­pro­por- tion­ate in­ter­fer­ence” when de­cid­ing to ban him from Bri­tain.

The Home Of­fice said it was “dis­ap­pointed” by the tri­bunal’s decision and would con­sider ap­peal­ing.

Sheikh Salah ar­rived in Bri­tain last June af­ter bor­der of­fi­cials made a se­ries of mis­takes that al­lowed him to en­ter through Heathrow Air­port de­spite be­ing on an ex­clu­sion list.

He was de­tained in his London ho­tel on June 28, hours af­ter ad­dress­ing a meet­ing in Le­ices­ter and the day be­fore he was due to speak at Par­lia­ment. He was later de­scribed in the House of Com­mons as hav­ing “a his­tory of vir­u­lent an­tisemitism”. Three weeks later he was re­leased on strict bail con­di­tions while await­ing his full de­por­ta­tion hear­ing, which he sub­se­quently lost last Oc­to­ber. His ap­peal against that rul­ing was heard ear­lier this year, with the judges’ rul­ing sent to Sheikh Salah’s lawyers last Thurs­day and made public two days later.

The judges recog­nised the of­fen­sive na­ture of Sheikh Salah’s 2007 ser­mon — for which he was charged with in­cite­ment to racism and vi­o­lence by an Is­raeli mag­is­trates’ court the fol­low­ing year — and a 2002 poem he had writ­ten which re­ferred to op­pres­sors as “mon­keys and losers”. But they ruled that the is­sues were “not at the heart of the ap­pel­lant’s mes­sage” and that “it is not easy to see that any rea­son­able ob­server would as­so­ci­ate the ap­pel­lant with them in any gen­eral sense”.

They said it was “un­clear” whether funds he raised for Ha­mas — an of­fence for which he had been con­victed in Is­rael in 2003 — had ben­e­fit­ted the ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion’s po­lit­i­cal or mil­i­tary wings.

The judges ruled that as­sist­ing char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions which sup­port Ha­mas po­lit­i­cally is not a crim­i­nal of­fence in Bri­tain, and that the Is­raeli con­vic­tion could not count against him. In fact, since 2003 Bri­tain has signed up to the EU’S fi­nan­cial sanc­tions on all of Ha­mas’s op­er­a­tions, mean­ing Sheikh Salah’s ac­tions would now be re­garded as il­le­gal in this coun­try.

Rul­ing in the fa­ther-of-six’s favour, Mr

Ock­el­ton con­cluded: “Most im­por­tantly, [the Sec­re­tary of State] was mis­led as to the terms of the poem writ­ten by the ap­pel­lant, a mat­ter on which there is now no room for dis­pute. The mat­ters... are in essence con­fined to words on one day, that are not shown to have caused any dif­fi­culty at the time or since.

“There is no ev­i­dence that the dan­ger per­ceived by the Sec­re­tary of State is per­ceived by any of the other coun­tries where the ap­pel­lant has been, nor save for the very tardy in­dict­ment, is there any ev­i­dence that even Is­rael sees the dan­ger.”

Sheikh Salah’s pres­ence in Bri­tain had “caused no dif­fi­culty of any sort”, the judges found.

The role of the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust has been ques­tioned by Sheikh Salah’s lawyers and sup­port­ers through­out the case, af­ter it emerged that Ms May’s pri­vate sec­re­tary asked her what could be done to stop the ac­tivist ap­pear­ing in Par­lia­ment just 17 min­utes af­ter re­ceiv­ing a re­port on him writ­ten by the CST.

The char­ity con­firmed this week that it had pro­vided the in­for­ma­tion af­ter be­ing asked to do so by the Home Of­fice. CST had warned gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials that Sheikh Salah could have a “rad­i­cal­is­ing im­pact” on Bri­tish au­di­ences, and pro­vided the Home Of­fice with an orig­i­nal copy of the 2002 poem in Ara­bic and with English trans­la­tions. It also pro­vided a copy of the 2007 speech.

Bor­der Agency of­fi­cials told Ms May that ev­i­dence ex­isted to al­low her to ex­clude Sheikh Salah for “un­ac­cept­able­be­haviour” but warned that the disp u t e d e v i - dence might sub­se­quently lead to a le­gal chal­lenge. The Bor­der Agency later ad­mit­ted that the decision to ban him had been “very finely bal­anced”.

CST has re­peat­edly de­fended it­self against ac­cu­sa­tions — in­clud­ing those made in the Guardian — that it had know­ingly mis­led Ms May.

A CST spokesman said: “CST was con­tacted by the Home Of­fice to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion rel­e­vant to Sheikh Raed Salah’s de­por­ta­tion on the grounds of his pres­ence not be­ing con­ducive to the public good. CST pro­vided in­for­ma­tion, in good faith, ex­actly as our com­mu­nity would ex­pect us to.

“CST stands by its ac­tions and notes, in par­tic­u­lar, that the tri­bunal recog­nised that Sheikh Salah’s in­tem­per­ate ex­pres­sion could of­fend and dis­tress the Jewish com­mu­nity.

“We trust that the Home Of­fice will ap­peal this decision, which threat­ens to sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­mine the gov­ern­ment’s Pre­vent anti-ex­trem­ism pol­icy.”

Sheikh Salah’s solic­i­tor, Tayab Ali, said: “The tri­bunal had all the facts be­fore it and was able to look be­hind what we have al­ways ar­gued was a mis­guided at­tempt to si­lence a prom­i­nent voice of the Pales­tinian peo­ple.

“There are some very im­por­tant ques­tions still left to be an­swered. We need to un­der­stand how the Sec­re­tary of State al­lowed her­self to ex­er­cise such bad judg­ment and why she thought it was ap­pro­pri­ate to rely so heav­ily on a sin­gle or­gan­i­sa­tion, the CST, when mak­ing these de­ci­sions.”

He said Ms May must “recog­nise her mis­takes” and “treat Sheikh Salah with the re­spect a politi­cian of his stand­ing de­serves”.

It is thought Sheikh Salah may now at­tempt to bring le­gal ac­tion against groups and in­di­vid­u­als whom he ar­gues at­trib­uted fab­ri­cated com­ments to him in what he sees as a delib- er­ate at­tempt to mis­lead the Home Sec­re­tary.

His sup­port­ers in­clude Ismail Pa­tel, chair of the Friends of Al-aqsa group, who claimed the court’s decision was a “vic­tory for those who be­lieve in free­dom of speech and who sup­port the Pales­tinian strug­gle for free­dom from oc­cu­pa­tion”.

Sarah Col­borne, di­rec­tor of the Pal- es­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign, said the gov­ern­ment had acted “shame­fully”.

She said: “I trust that there will be a se­ri­ous at­tempt by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment to rely in the fu­ture on ac­cu­rate ev­i­dence rather than in­ac­cu­rate anti-pales­tinian pro­pa­ganda against some­one who has a his­tory of op­pos­ing Is­rael’s crimes and vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law.”

PHOTO: AP

Free to speak: Salah

Lás­zló Mo­holy-nagy’s 1928 print 14 Bauhaus­bücher will be on show at the from Bauhaus: Art as Life ex­hi­bi­tion at the Bar­bican from May 3

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