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UK anti-immigrant party officials acquitted of race hatred charges on retrial

[JURIST] A Leeds Crown Court jury entered a unanimous not guilty verdict Friday for British National Party (BNP) [party website; BBC profile] leader Nick Griffin [Wikipedia profile] and senior aide Mark Collett in their retrial on charges of inciting racial hatred [JURIST report]. Outside the courthouse, Griffin characterized the outcome as a victory for freedom against Tony Blair and accused BBC News [media website] of favoring the government and influencing the decision to prosecute the defendants. The charges stemmed from 2004 speeches in West Yorkshire, taped by the BBC, that showed Griffin calling Islam a "wicked, vicious faith" and Collett referring to those seeking asylum as "a little bit like cockroaches." During the retrial, Griffin contended he aimed his remarks at criminal followers of Islam, not at all non-white immigrants, and he quoted several passages of the Koran [Times Online report], alleging the quotes provide support for Islam's rejection of democracy and peace. The defendants also claimed that the speeches represented legitimate political dialogue [BNP backgrounder, PDF] from an official party, the BNP, which requires that all members must be of British or kindred European ethnic descent [BNP membership materials] and calls for the end to all non-white immigration to the UK and voluntary resettlement of non-whites to their countries of ethnic origin.

In February, the two men were cleared of similar charges of inciting racial hatred, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on all charges [BBC report], leading to a second trial. BBC News has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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