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Amber Rudd seeks to ease concerns over displays of Hezbollah flags

Home Secretary is 'sympathetic' to those offended by flying of terrorist group's banner and insists police are 'not ignoring' the issue

    Amber Rudd
    Amber Rudd Photo: Getty Images

    Amber Rudd has said she is “sympathetic” to concerns about the flying of flags in support of Hezbollah in Britain.

    In an apparent attempt to reassure the Jewish community, the Home Secretary said she believed senior officers from the Metropolitan Police were “not ignoring” the matter.

    Ms Rudd has previously been accused of failing to close a legal loophole which allows demonstrations in support of the terror group’s political wing, despite its military arm being outlawed.

    The political row over the flags has raged since last summer when they were flown at the Al Quds Day rally in central London.

    Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, accused Ms Rudd of failing to act, while politicians from the Conservative Friends of Israel, the Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement all called for an outright ban of Hezbollah.

    The police are able to stop protests going ahead if officers believe there is a risk of inciting violence or racial hatred. In November, demonstrators were told not to fly the Hezbollah flag at an event relating to the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

    Ms Rudd was asked what steps she was taking on the issue in the House of Commons on Monday by Oliver Dowden, the Hertsmere MP.

    He told Parliament: “Flying the flag of the political wing of the antisemitic terrorist organisation Hezbollah is provocative, incites extremism and is deeply offensive to our Jewish community, but the flag can still be seen flying at events such as the  Al Quds day marches in London.”

    In response, Ms Rudd said: “I am aware of, and very sympathetic to, the issues that my honourable friend has raised.

    “I have discussed the matter with Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, and I know that the police are not ignoring it.

    “Only Hezbollah’s military wing is currently a proscribed terrorist organisation, but its flags are the same as those of the political wings that are not proscribed. For an offence to be committed, the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed military wing of the group.”

    Ms Rudd said the government would “shortly” announce the person who would serve as the lead commissioner for its new commission for countering extremism.

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