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UK bans neo-Nazi group as anti-Semitism rises

December 12, 2016

'National Action' has become the first far-right group set to be banned under the UK's Terrorism Act. The announcement came as the government sought to address the rise of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain.

Großbritannien Neonazi-Gruppierung National Action
Image: imago/ZUMA Press

A British neo-Nazi organization known as "National Action" on Monday became the first group of its kind set to be banned under anti-terror legislation in the UK. Shortly after the ban was announced, Prime Minister Theresa May warned about the rising tide of anti-Semitism.

"National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organization which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it," said Interior Minister Amber Rudd. Parliament is expected to officially approve the measure on Wednesday. Once passed, belonging to the group will become a criminal offense carrying a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Rudd added that the group was found to be "concerned in terrorism" as described in the Terrorism Act. This means engaging in acts of terrorist violence and also promoting or encouraging them.

National Action held a "Miss Hitler" competition and defaced a statue of Nelson Mandela in London with bananas. One of its leaders, Benjamin Raymond, wrote on his blog in 2014 that he thought Jews "need to be exterminated" and expressed admiration for Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.

More recently, National Action has taken to social media to show support for Thomas Mair, the Nazi-inspired extremist who murdered Labour lawmaker Jo Cox last June. "#VoteLeave, don't let this man's sacrifice go in vain," the group tweeted, next to a picture of Mair.

The group described itself on a website as "vilified by the media and hated by this sick world … united in a mission to save our race and generation."

Großbritannien Labour-Politikerin Jo Cox
Jo Cox was killed during the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union. Her killer has been sentenced to a life term in prison.Image: picture-alliance/empics/Y. Mok

UK sees uptick in anti-Semitic attacks

Soon after Rudd announced the ban, PM Theresa May gave a speech to highlight increased concern about anti-Jewish violence in Britain. May also introduced an official definition of anti-Semitism in the hope that it would help prosecutors.

"It means there will be one definition of anti-Semitism – in essence, language or behavior that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews - and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it," the prime minister said.

Jewish rights group hailed the decision. Jonathan Arkush, who heads the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that "with anti-Semitism on the rise it has become essential to have a clear definition against which to assess attitudes that are or may be racist."

According to the Community Security Trust, anti-Semitic attacks in Britain rose by 11 percent in the first half of 2016 when compared to the same period in 2015. Of the 557 incidents reported in early 2016, around 41 of them were violent assaults. Many more involved the verbal abuse of Jews in public and anti-Semitic graffiti.

es/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)