By Yvonne Ridley
Bradford: demons of apartheid South Africa
It was a Charles Dickens’ character from the book Oliver Twist who called the law an ass. However, quite often it’s not the law that’s at fault but those who sit in judgment and interpret the law – they are the real donkeys.
I reached this conclusion years ago in the wake of the Bradford riots in the summer of 2001. Those race riots were stirred and fermented by the British National Party with counter protests organized by the Anti Nazi League.
But who got arrested? Scores of young Muslim men caught in the middle who ended up being sentenced, some for four or more years. Many were students, studying at university with high ambitions and bright futures mapped out ahead of them. Tragically their hopes and aspirations were shattered by one man… Judge Gillick.
From the bench this judge lectured young Muslims about collective responsibility. I gasped. The last time I heard that sort of language was from courts in Apartheid South Africa… the exact same language was used against the heroic resisters by the demons of that evil regime.
Some of the young Muslims in Bradford were being sent down for nothing more than turning up to watch the protests while others had merely exercised their democratic rights to demonstrate against the right wing fascists in the BNP.
The “nab’em and grab’em” attitude of the police in Bradford meant that many innocent young men were swept up during the riots. CCTV footage which would have exonerated them were kept from defence lawyers by the coppers.
What happened in Bradford 2001 was a sharp contrast to what happened 20 years earlier in the aftermath of the Brixton race riots in London, the Toxteth race riots in Liverpool and the Mosside race riots in Manchester during the spring and summers of 1981 in which hundreds of police were injured, hundreds of vehicles and property burned along with hundreds of arrests.
The then Home Secretary William Whitelaw commissioned the Scarman report.
What followed wasn’t the persecution of the young men in those communities. Instead millions of pounds was invested in community projects and funding to give the young generation a future.
But while Brixton’s largely African-Carribean community got Lord Scarman two decades later Bradford Muslims got Judge Gillick and swathes of young men lost their university educations, their hopes and their futures as they were carted off to prison. It was a grave injustice which was only partially corrected when appeals against the harshness of the sentences were lodged.
Gaza sentencing: politically influenced
But today, almost ten years on, this apartheid-style law and order is repeating itself as Judge Denniss at Isleworth Crown Court hands down sentences to young Muslim men who took part in the protests against the war in Gaza.
So far he has sent down 22 young people who have been convicted of public order offences, as a result of taking part in demonstrations in London in December 2008 and January 2009 following the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Once again the police have sat on or withheld vital CCTV and video footage which reveals that much of the violence on the night was meted out by some psychos in cops’ clothing!
Over the last few months, cases have been heard in the west London trials of young Muslims, who have been charged with violent disorder and other public order offences. Many have been persuaded to plead guilty only to be rewarded with hefty sentences. Some of these youth were attending their first ever demonstration.
For many observers it has become obvious that different rules apply to Muslims in the criminal justice system compared to others. And, just as Muslims are demonised as extremists, terrorists and an alien threat in the media, they are now being judged by the judiciary in a negative way.
It was the Dickens character Mr Bumble who called the law an ass, and I have to say, that being the case Judge Gillick and Judge Denniss have proved themselves to be worthy donkeys.
The injustice of what happened in Bradford did go largely unchallenged, but I can tell you that Judge Denniss is about to be judged himself – and held to account on his own performance.
It is quite obvious Judge Denniss’s sentencing has been unfair and unjust – some might say it is biased and politically influenced while others believe it smacks of Islamaphobia.
For the last four decades I’ve sat through many trials and I have to say that most judges and magistrates deal with issues in a fair and just manner. But what I witnessed in Bradford and more recently in Isleworth has been neither fair nor just.
For too long have we allowed the long, poisonous tentacles of Zionism and Islamaphobia to twist and weave their way into British courts. Ordinary, law-abiding citizens of faith and no faith have had enough of seeing our courtrooms hijacked by those who believe some are more equal than others when it comes to freedoms and liberties.
The next few weeks and months are going to be interesting, as groups led by the Stop the War Coalition demand justice in the courts. And we will get justice in English courts because more and more people are beginning to sit up and take notice.
Scotland: no place for Zionist meddling in the judiciary
There has already been a fair and just ruling over the border in Scotland which shows there’s no place for Zionist meddling in the judiciary. The charges of “racially aggravated conduct” laid against 5 members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign were thrown out by Sheriff James Scott at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday April 8.
In a stunning victory for commonsense the Procurator Fiscal who brought the charges in the first place has exposed himself to ridicule. The five SPSC members interrupted a performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2008. They were initially charged with breach of the peace and held in police custody but were released to face a different charge of ‘aggravated racism’.
The campaigners had been accused of making “comments about Jews, Israelis, and the State of Israel”, but during a three-day legal debate at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, a BBC audio recording of the event revealed that there had been no reference made to “Jews”. Comments included “They are Israeli Army musicians”, “End the Siege of Gaza”, “Genocide in Gaza”, and “Boycott Israel”.
Sheriff James Scott ruled that “the comments were clearly directed at the State of Israel, the Israeli Army, and Israeli Army musicians”, and not targeted at “citizens of Israel” per se. “The procurator fiscal’s attempts to squeeze malice and ill will out of the agreed facts were rather strained”, he said
The Sheriff expressed concern that to continue with the prosecution would have implications for freedom of expression generally: “if persons on a public march designed to protest against and publicise alleged crimes committed by a state and its army are afraid to name that state for fear of being charged with racially aggravated behaviour, it would render worthless their Article 10(1) rights. Presumably their placards would have to read, ‘Genocide in an unspecified state in the Middle East’; ‘Boycott an unspecified state in the Middle East’ etc. “
“Having concluded that continuation of the present prosecution is not necessary or proportionate, and therefore incompetent, it seems to me that the complaint must be dismissed.”
It is quite clear the Scottish Five would have been sent to prison had they appeared before Judge Denniss who wants to stifle any protests against the Apartheid State of Israel.
Now that the evils of Zionism have been kicked out of Scotland let’s see that it is wiped out of the English courts as well.
There is no room for Zionist influences in our legal system just as there is no room for Islamaphobia or racism.
*Yvonne Ridley is a British journalist, columnist and author. She is also a patron of Cageprisoners, a human rights organisation based in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.