Theresa May humiliated by judge over attempted deportation of Palestinian activist


A judge has strongly criticised Theresa May’s attempt to deport a Palestinian activist over fears that he would stir up race-hate violence, ruling that she was wrong about the danger he posed and that her decision was “entirely unnecessary”.

Banned preacher can be removed says tribunal

The leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah Photo: EPA
Martin Beckford

By ,

Home Affairs Editor

The Home Secretary was “misled” about a supposedly anti-Semitic poem written by Sheikh Raed Salah, took “irrelevant” matters into consideration and tried to ban him from Britain on the basis of a “few sentences” in an old sermon, it was said.

The judgment is a third humiliation for the Home Secretary in the case of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, who was able to walk into this country despite being banned and who later won damages for being detained without being told why.

It also raises further doubts over the Government’s ability to deport those it considers dangerous extremists, coming just weeks before two notorious terror suspects, Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, could be set free.

Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “By arresting, imprisoning and attempting to deport Sheikh Raed Salah on what the judge has determined as a ‘misapprehension of the facts,’ the British Government have acted in a shameful way.”

Mr Salah, 53, is an Israeli citizen and a prominent activist for an independent Palestine who has previously been jailed for spitting at a policeman and for funding banned charities. He has been accused in the House of Commons of having a “history of virulent anti-Semitism”.

Last June an exclusion order was made to stop him entering Britain for a series of meetings including one at Parliament, but he was able to walk through immigration at Heathrow Airport unchallenged.

It later emerged that officials had missed six opportunities to stop him, including sending details of his ban to the wrong terminal.

He went on to deliver a speech in Leicester before he was detained three days into his trip, after which the Home Secretary served a deportation notice on him, claiming his presence was “not conducive to the public good”.

But Mr Salah won bail three weeks later and the High Court later ruled that officials had not explained why he was being detained “in a language he could understand”, paving the way for him to win an estimated £5,000 compensation.

He has been on bail in London while challenging the deportation order and lost the first round in October when a First Tier Tribunal concluded that his “words and actions tend to be inflammatory, divisive, insulting and likely to foment tension and radicalism”.

But in a judgment made public at the weekend, the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Upper Immigration Tribunal ruled that his appeal “succeeds on all grounds”. He now intends to return to Israel.

The Vice-President of the chamber, Mark Ockelton, made several pointed comments about the strength of the evidence used by the Home Secretary to justify the ban and the deportation, saying she had “acted under a misapprehension in the facts”.

“Most importantly, she was misled as to the terms of the poem written by the appellant, a matter on which there is now no room for dispute.

“She took irrelevant factors into account in relation to the indictments and the Hamas conviction.”

The judge said the arguments used to constrain Mr Salah’s freedom of speech were “very weak” and were “not a fair portrayal” of his view or words.

The justification for banning him from Britain amounted to “a few sentences” in a sermon in February 2007 which “nobody seems to have regarded as harmful at the time”.

“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.”

He went on: “We have no difficulty in concluding that the Secretary of State’s decision has not been shown to be proportionate to the need to preserve community harmony or protect the United Kingdom from the dangers to which the policy refers.

“On the contrary, the position is that it appears to have been entirely unnecessary to achieve that purpose.”

The judge concluded that the deportation order had breached Mr Salah’s human right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the convention) and, as it was based on the same material, that there was “no lawful basis” for the banning order.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are very disappointed the Upper Tier Tribunal has reversed the decision of the First Tier and allowed Salah’s appeal.

“We are considering the detailed judgement and, if we can appeal, we will.”

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