MPs urge Home Office to free embassy-protest mob

By Marcus Dysch, April 8, 2010
Petition: members of the Stop the War Coalition protest outside the Home Office headquarters

Petition: members of the Stop the War Coalition protest outside the Home Office headquarters

Supporters of pro-Palestinian demonstrators jailed after violent protests outside the Israeli embassy last year have stepped up their campaign against the sentences.

A small group of Stop the War Coalition members protested outside the Home Office last week, demanding that the remaining charges against defendants be dropped.

MPs George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn, accompanied by representatives from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and British Muslim Initiative, delivered a 1,200-name petition.

Their action follows a meeting last month at which the organisation claimed the sentences were a result of "state racism" against Muslims.

More than 20 people have so far been jailed for terms ranging from eight months to two and a half years. More are awaiting sentencing.

Thousands attended demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington in January last year. More than 60 were later charged, most with public order offences.

The petition calls for the release of those who have been jailed and an independent investigation into complaints about police behaviour. But a Home Office spokesman said: "The role of the police in demonstrations is to facilitate peaceful protest, keep the peace, uphold the law and prevent offences being committed.

"People have the right to assemble and express their views in public. It is, however, a right that should be used responsibly and we are clear that it is unacceptable for protest to cross over into violence and intimidation."

A Community Security Trust spokesman said: "Stop the War organised demonstrations that saw widespread anti-police violence, the forced closure of streets and destruction of property, along with intimidation and violence against anybody deemed to be pro-Israeli.

"Now, Stop the War see an opportunity to drive a wedge between the Muslim community and the police. It is a very dangerous game and no-one should fall for it."

Last updated: 1:27pm, April 8 2010