Jersey Senator reels from racist abuse

Senator Freddie Cohen

Senator Freddie Cohen

Jersey's planning minister has been bombarded with a series of antisemitic messages and a death threat.

Senator Freddie Cohen, the former president of Jersey's 65-family Jewish community, has received "extremely antisemitic" messages on his mobile phone and on a blog site earlier this month, including one death threat towards him and his family.

Police are investigating the abuse and threats which began two weeks ago after the Jersey Evening Post criticised a planning decision made by the 53-year-old in 2008.

"It's extraordinarily upsetting, particularly for my wife and family," the father of four said. "This is not something you expect on an island that suffered five years of Nazi occupation, particularly the week after we celebrated liberation."

Jersey's chief minister, Senator Terry le Sueur, spoke out against the messages in the States, the island's parliament, on Tuesday, a week after it celebrated the 66th anniversary of liberation from Nazi occupation.

He said: "I condemn publicly the actions of a small number of Jersey residents who misuse their freedom of speech, even to the extent of a death threat, to criticise the actions of the minister for planning and environment, not on planning grounds, which they are perfectly entitled to do, but purely on the basis that he is of the Jewish faith, a heritage of which he is justly proud and which should be acknowledged and respected by all. I am not prepared to stand by and ignore manifestations of religious or racial prejudice. We have a moral duty to pursue the principles of freedom for which the Second World War was fought and to challenge immoral and abhorrent activities."

Stephen Regal, president of the Jewish community, said he felt "aghast" by the incident. "While I read about this sort of thing every week in the JC, they just don't happen here," he said. "That's why it's even more shocking."

In 2005, Jersey police investigated antisemitic graffiti on posters supporting Mr Cohen during his bid for election. Five posters were daubed with the words: "No Jews".

Last updated: 1:48pm, May 19 2011